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A CEO’s Most Important Duty

December 1, 2016, 4:10 PM UTC

This morning we focus on an issue to which you almost certainly pay too little attention: yourself. If I had asked you five minutes ago to list the top issues on your to-do list – even if I had specified that they be issues for your organization – I’ll bet you wouldn’t have included your own well-being. That omission is a big mistake, but if it’s any consolation, you’re in excellent company. So I urge you to read Cliff Leaf’s article on Arianna Huffington’s new company, Thrive Global, which launched yesterday and which aims to make money by helping people feel better while also making their employers more successful. If it succeeds, that’s a win-win-win. But for now let’s focus on the most important winner, you.

Huffington is the media entrepreneur who built the Huffington Post, sold it to AOL for $315 million in 2011, and stepped down as editor in chief this past August. Well-being is the subject of her two most recent books, Thrive (2014) and The Sleep Revolution (2016). She’s passionate about the subject because of a personal experience, when she collapsed from exhaustion in 2007, breaking her cheekbone and gashing her face. Doctors couldn’t pinpoint the problem, but she could: “Nothing was wrong, except everything was wrong.”

Huffington discovered that other top executives – Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, JP Morgan Chase U.S. Private Bank chief Kelly Coffey, United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz – had experienced their own frightening revelations about neglecting themselves. And she found that step one in reforming our views about self-care is simply accepting that it’s okay to sacrifice certain things in favor of our health. As she puts it: “The deep cultural belief that if you are a driven, smart person who wants to succeed you just have to sacrifice your health, your relationships, everything along the way is unbelievably deeply embedded—and it just isn’t true.”

That last part is the key. The conventional view isn’t true. Driving yourself maniacally doesn’t make you more productive or creative. It makes you less so. The supposed tradeoff is false. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, who sleeps eight hours a night, says, “We don’t need to maximize the number of decisions we make per day. Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you short change your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.”

In some organizations it’s still not culturally okay to talk like that. Let’s be brave enough to start turning the tide. Instead of bragging about how little sleep you get, brag about how much. Turn down meeting requests if they conflict with your scheduled exercise or yoga sessions. Change your view of dreaded downtime – seeing it not as waste but as vital fuel that makes you happier and better.

Above all, accept that it’s okay to attend to your own body and mind. It will make you happier. And if you’re too conscientious and type-A for that to be enough, realize that it will also make you a better leader.

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What We're Reading Today

Trump's phone conversation with Pakistan's Leader
According to a press release from the government of Pakistan, President-elect Donald Trump offered effusive praise of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in their phone call. Calling Sharif a "terrific guy," Trump also said he'd love to visit Pakistan. The informal conversation, if accurate, is considered a breach of diplomatic protocol and potentially harmful to the U.S. relationship with India. CNN

Nestle finds a way to cut sugar
Researchers at the food giant say they created a new form of sugar that dissolves faster. As a result. they say they can reduce the sugar content in chocolate by 40% and keep the same taste profile. Under the leadership of Paul Bulcke, Nestle is currently patenting the new form of sugar and plans to begin using it in products by 2018. BBC

Pelosi re-elected House Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi fended off a serious challenge to her 14 years of leadership of House Democrats. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan had argued in his campaign that the Democrats needed to reassess their message after stunning losses across the country. Although Pelosi won 134 votes to Ryan's 63, the fact that Ryan got as many votes as he did suggests that Pelosi has work to do in her eighth term. Washington Post

Sheryl Sandberg to donate $100 million... Facebook stock to charity. The Facebook COO has renamed her foundation after her late husband, Dave Goldberg. Much of Sandberg's money will go towards grief support groups, anti-poverty efforts and women's empowerment causes. Fortune

Building Better Leaders

Even CEOs get stumped by brainteasers posed as interview questions
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent, was flummoxed when recently asked how he would split up a bounty among pirates. That was a question previously asked in Google interviews.  Entrepreneur

It's important for bosses to say they're sorry...
...when a mistake occurs. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says apologizing is a way to remain open with employees and create trust. Fortune

In order to get helpful feedback...
...make sure you're sending out the right signals. If you get defensive or fail to show appreciation, then you'll be deterring people from telling you the things you need to hear. US News & World Report

Trump's Transition

Steven Mnuchin outlines tax changes
President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, vowed that there would be major tax cuts for individuals and businesses. In his first comments, Mnuchin said the proposed changes would not only include cutting the 35% top business tax rate to 15% but also tax cuts for the middle class and wealthy. So far, there were no details of cuts in spending or federal entitlement reforms. USA Today

Time to end federal control of Fannie and Freddie
After the housing industry crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came under federal control, as the government rescued the lenders -- and averted a financial collapse. Since the two lenders were restored to fiscal health, President Obama has sought to reform the system and cut their ties to the federal government. The Treasury nominee, Steven Mnuchin, said he agrees that Fannie and Freddie should become private entities. Changes to the system, however, could send home financing costs significantly higher. Fortune

Goldman's No. 2 meets with Trump
Goldman President Gary Cohn has long been considered an heir apparent to CEO Lloyd Blankfein. But after a meeting with Trump, Cohn signaled he would be willing to leave Goldman if he was offered a job in the administration, sources told The New York Times. Cohn is reportedly being considered for director of the Office of Management and Budget. He'd be the third Goldman alum to join Trump's administration. NYT

Up or Out

GoPro President Tony Bates will step down this month.  Chicago Tribune

Fortune Reads and Videos

Head of Uber America moonlights as a driver
Rachel Holt said she's learning about the "pain points" and what's stressful about being a driver for Uber.  Fortune

Chief of staff to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau...
…says Americans should consider moving up north. "We welcome all of you," said Katie Telford. "Businesses, consider investing in and expanding in Canada!" Fortune 

Why white women voted for Trump
It's due to a lack of "gender political consciousness," says Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford University. It's easier for women in multiple minority groups to recognize inequality. Fortune

As Wisconsin's recount gets underway today...
...Jill Stein says she will request a full recount of Michigan's vote as well. Fortune

Quote of the Day

"[You] can’t do moonshots if everything works, it’s almost kind of the opposite." -- Obi Felten, a top executive at Alphabet's research arm X, discussing at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit how the group embraces failure.  Fortune

Produced by Ryan Derousseau