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Power Sheet: How Elon Musk Is Pushing Tesla Forward

A leader is someone who goes places before others do, and it’s never easy. The world seems to furnish 100 doubters for every visionary. Yet two leaders in the same broadly defined industry, Uber’s Travis Kalanick and Tesla’s Elon Musk, are meeting the challenges quite effectively, as recent news shows – and in their business, these challenges are huge.

It’s astonishing that both CEOs have progressed as far as they have in deploying self-driving cars directed by cutting-edge technology that, if faulty, could kill people. It certainly failed to save a Tesla driver last month, though the driver may not have properly understood the limits of the car’s Autopilot feature. The Center for Auto Safety, a Ralph Nader-founded lobbying group, called for Tesla to recall all vehicles with the feature and to disable it until federal authorities complete an investigation, and that’s what many leaders would have done. Instead, Musk did the opposite. On Sunday he announced his own fix to the problem, an upgrade to Autopilot that he says would likely have prevented the Florida crash; Tesla will beam it to all affected vehicles as a software update in the next couple of weeks. He said cars with the update will be “by far” the safest on the road and that federal regulators, whom he briefed on the changes, “appear very happy with the changes.”

Kalanick is following the same damn-the-torpedoes strategy. Some safety advocates, including Joan Claybrook, who ran the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Carter administration, want Uber to shut down its new Pittsburgh test of autonomous cars giving rides to consumers. But that’s unlikely because Kalanick found a locale that doesn’t require government permission for the experiment – Pennsylvania law says nothing about autonomous cars – and he worked deftly with state regulators and Pittsburgh mayor William Peduto, who saw an opportunity to make his city a symbol of advanced tech. Like Musk, Kalanick didn’t ask permission. He played offense, driven by a powerful will to do what leaders do, going someplace before others get there.

Both CEOs are forcing additional major changes in different realms, overcoming powerful interests whose existence they threaten. Kalanick has to win over local taxi commissions under siege by taxi operators who in many cases have virtually captured the regulators. Musk has to fight auto dealers endangered by his direct-to-consumer sales model and who wield heavy influence in state legislatures. His showrooms are illegal in Michigan, for example, where buyers must pick up their new Teslas in Ohio. But state by state, the laws are changing. Ultimately it isn’t exactly Uber and Tesla that will overcome the forces of opposition. It’s both companies’ tremendous popularity with consumers that will sway regulators and legislators.

Kalanick and Musk can never know if they’ll succeed, yet they plunge ahead. This is the power of will. It’s greater than most people ever imagine, and and as we’re seeing today in the transportation industry, it sets the most successful leaders apart from the rest.

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What We’re Reading Today

Clinton didn’t think her pneumonia was “that big a deal”  
Speaking for the first time since she announced her diagnosis, Hillary Clinton said she should have stopped campaigning sooner but thought she could push through it. She said she would release more health details and called on Donald Trump to do the same. USA Today

NCAA pulls 7 events from North Carolina 
The NCAA will relocate championship events including basketball tournament games because of North Carolina’s “bathroom law” requiring transgender people to use the bathroom assigned to the sex on their birth certificate. The NBA’s Adam Silver earlier moved the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte for the same reason.  Gov. Pat McCrory has yet to respond. ESPN

Philippine President calls for removal of US troops
Rodrigo Duterte said he wants U.S. troops out of a portion of the Philippines where Islamic militants have been active. A limited number of U.S. special forces are in the area. The State Department has yet to receive a formal request for their removal. The statement is the new leader’s latest slap at the U.S. Fortune

Under Armour tries its hand at high-end clothing
Kevin Plank‘s athletic apparel company will debut its first upscale line at New York Fashion Week. Competitors, including Mark Parker‘s Nike and Herbert Hainer‘s Adidas, introduced high-end fashions years ago. The new designs will move Under Armour into fashion retailers such as Barneys. WSJ

Building a Better Leader

To encourage more productive meetings…
…Weight Watchers installed whiteboards with agenda boxes on them, including a line for “Desired Outcome.” A month later, meeting dissatisfaction had dropped from 44% to 16%. Harvard Business Review

As you begin your career and consider new job opportunities…
…ask whether you’re truly contributing at your current level. If not, it might be best to stay where you are, build relationships, and learn how to contribute greater value. Fortune

Even the best employees can become liabilities if they’re not corrected
If employees’ confidence and leadership ability turn into bossiness or callousness, then they can damage your organization. Prevent it by managing based on the personality. Great Leadership

Auto Corrections

GM fires shot at Tesla with Chevrolet Bolt EV
General Motors announced that its new all-electric vehicle will go 238 miles on a single charge. That’s 10% farther than Elon Musk‘s Tesla Model 3. It’s a sign that Mary Barra‘s company is serious about electric cars, but Tesla may be preparing a counter-punch; when the Model 3 ships next year, its range could exceed the currently promised 215 miles. Fortune

Google self-driving car project downshifts
High-profile members of the car team have left in recent months, and former employees say the company, which began the autonomous project in 2009, is behind competitors. Google hasn’t partnered with other companies and is setting its ambitions very high, while other firms focus on practicality. For Larry Page‘s Alphabet, the autonomous vehicle may be another experiment having trouble shifting to a profit-making enterprise. Bloomberg

Ford’s go-slow approach
While other car companies are pushing out autonomous features fast, Mark Fields‘s Ford isn’t. It’s testing a form of radar called lidar, which uses cameras, laser beams, and other technology to scan more area around the car. While it still plans to introduce self-driving cars in five years, Ford is not taking Tesla’s approach of adding semi-autonomous technology in the meantime. NYT

Up or Out

ETrade Financial has named Karl Roessner CEO, succeeding Paul Idzik. MarketWatch

James Chambers has resigned as CEO of Weight Watchers. Fortune

Fortune Reads and Videos

If Hillary Clinton had to step down from the campaign…
…Democratic Party leaders would choose a new nominee, who wouldn’t necessarily be running mate Tim Kaine. Clinton has given zero indication she’s even contemplating stepping down.  Fortune

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman says he would donate $5 million…
…to aid veterans if Donald Trump releases his tax returns by Oct. 19. Fortune

Big Sugar sways research on heart disease
As far back as 1965, the Sugar Research Foundation funded multiple studies, in which it guided researchers to link heart disease to fat instead of sugar. Fortune

Facebook adds payment capabilities to Messenger
Users will no longer need to leave the app to enter payment information. Fortune

Quotes of the Day

“Fairness is about more than the opportunity to participate in college sports, or even compete for championships…We believe in providing a safe and respectful environment at our events and are committed to providing the best experience possible for college athletes, fans, and everyone taking part in our championships.” — NCAA president Mark Emmert, explaining the decision to pull NCAA championship events from North Carolina.  ESPN

“This is so absurd it’s almost comical…I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers, and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team?” — North Carolina Republican Party spokesperson Kami Mueller, responding to the NCAA’s decision.  Washington Post

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Produced by Ryan Derousseau
@ryanderous
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