Leadership is, among other things, doing what others are not doing, without knowing how it will turn out, but believing it’s for the best. That sounds noble; it isn’t always. In other words, leadership isn’t always good. Consider two men in the news this week, both showing genuine leadership, one of them inspiring, the other appalling.
-Pope Francis is buying pizza for the homeless after a day at the beach. Many homeless people camp around St. Peter’s, and every day for the past couple of weeks a top Vatican official, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, has been driving a van full of them to a popular beach southwest of Rome, where they’re given swimsuits and towels. Later they all go to a pizzeria. To which you might say, so what? The numbers involved, 10 or 11 people a day, are insignificant. But the pope has other reasons. Krajewski told Vatican Insider, “We certainly are not saving the world with some of these initiatives, we are not solving the problems of the homeless in Rome, but at least we are restoring to them a little dignity.”
He might have mentioned another factor. Every time the pope does something like this – making a surprise visit to a center for drug addicts, washing the feet of the poor, dining with Middle Eastern refugees he brought back from a trip – he inspires others (Catholic and non-Catholic) worldwide. He’s preaching the same doctrine as the past several popes, but he’s behaving differently, not knowing how it would work or even if he’d be safe on some of his trips. That’s leadership of the best kind.
-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is encouraging police and self-styled vigilantes to kill thousands of people whom they suspect of being drug dealers or other criminals. No arrests, trials, or evidence required; the bodies have been turning up every day since Duterte took office June 30, often bearing signs saying “Drug Pusher” or “Don’t follow me, I’m a criminal.” He has promised to pardon police and military who do the killing.
If all that sounds shocking beyond belief, it’s merely what Duterte promised in the election campaign. The Philippines have a crime problem, and he vowed to end it in six months by doing exactly what he’s doing. The media may think twice about criticizing him. In a speech, he said journalists are not exempt from assassination: “The constitution can no longer help you if you disrespect a person.”
And the populace is outraged, right? No. They love this. Duterte’s approval rating is 91%. By glorifying the most abominable values and playing to people’s most inhuman instincts, he has made himself a hero. That’s leadership of the worst kind.
Leadership is a tool, not a value, and effective leaders can be abhorrent forces in the world. I try to remind myself never to say admiringly that someone is a great leader. Instead I try to be more specific. Not all great leaders are leaders for good.
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What We’re Reading Today
Viacom, National Amusements resume settlement talks
Thought both companies are controlled by Sumner Redstone, they’re roiled in a lawsuit over Redstone’s mental capacity and his ability to remove Viacom directors. Negotiators have resumed talks after giving up last month. The deal being discussed would remove Viacom Chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman, who would be succeeded by COO Tom Dooley. Dauman and four other board members – George Abrams, Blythe McGarvie, Frederic Salerno, and William Schwartz – would step down. The discussions could still fall apart. WSJ
Trump shakes up his staff
As poll numbers decline, Donald Trump has named Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager and Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO. The change looks like a demotion for campaign chairman Paul Manafort, whose relationship with a pro-Russia party in Ukraine has come under scrutiny. Politico
Nick Denton’s tax havens
Fortune reports that Gawker’s founder hides assets in a number of tax havens, avoiding taxes. There’s a holding company in the Cayman Islands, a subsidiary in Hungary, and a British holding company called Greenmount Creek, which is controlled by the Denton family trust. Gawker, financially hobbled by a $140-million verdict in a lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan and funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, has agreed to sell to Univision for $135 million. But will Hogan ever be able to collect? Denton plans to appeal the verdict. Fortune
Floods destroy 40,000 homes in Louisiana
After massive flooding from two feet of rain in 48 hours, Governor John Bel Edwards said the state is beginning to recover. More than 30,000 people have been rescued from homes since Friday. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate dubbed the issue a “very large disaster;” flooding could continue. CBS News
Building a Better Leader
The number of people quitting self-employment…
…is rising. And the number who are self-employed has fallen 8.1% over the past 20 years, despite the rise of the gig economy. Small Biz Trends
Female CEOs have a 27% chance…
…of becoming the target of an activist investor. The chances for a male CEO? Almost zero. Fortune
Facebook’s point system for hiring diverse candidates…
…hasn’t proven effective. Recruiters were given 2 points for every black, Hispanic, or female engineer they hired, 1 point for everyone else; point totals affect bonuses. But the system has had almost no effect on Facebook’s diversity. WSJ
Barnes & Noble CEO ousted…
…after less than a year. The board removed Ron Boire because he “was not a good fit,” the company said. Boire announced a turnaround plan, including four new concept stores that would serve beer and wine, two months ago. His role will be covered by a few Barnes & Noble execs until a replacement is found. Fortune
Ford to unleash self-driving taxi fleet
Mark Fields‘s company will release a vehicle that won’t have a steering wheel or pedals in order to serve “commercial” entities, like ridesharing services. It’s unclear if Ford plans to operate the vehicles itself through a ridesharing service of its own making, or to pursue a partnership. It expects to release the vehicles by 2021. Financial Times
Has the NSA been hacked?
A number of powerful hacking tools reportedly used by the NSA, with code names like Epicbanana and Buzzdirection, have appeared online in recent days. Former NSA employees say the files appear to be real. If the agency, headed by Michael Rogers, has been hacked, it means another country might be able to use the tools to exploit organizations with weak security. Washington Post
Up or Out
The NFL has named Washington D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier as its head of security. Fortune
Sophos has named former GoPro executive Tony Young as its CIO. Yahoo Finance
Fortune Reads and Videos
Roger Ailes is reportedly advising Donald Trump…
…in preparation for the debates. The campaign denies it. Fortune
Facebook traffic for top U.S. publishers has declined…
…as much as 50% in the second quarter. The likely reason is a change in Facebook’s algorithm. Fortune
Amazon buys another gaming company
This time it’s gaming community Curse, as Jeff Bezos‘s company tries to boost Twitch, its game-viewing service. Fortune
Vacancy rates for luxury apartments…
…have increased to 18% a year-and-a-half after buildings open. With developers largely ignoring middle-income apartments, an imbalance has risen that could lead to problems in a downturn. Fortune
Oracle founder Larry Ellison turns 72 today. Biography