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President Obama’s Awkward Position

Undoubtedly someone keeps track of this, but what do you think is the ratio of attention paid to the president-elect as compared with attention paid to the president? I suspect the ratio is now the highest it has ever been. Every day, the media and certainly social media care more about what Donald Trump is saying or doing than about what President Obama is saying or doing, for example with regard to China’s seizure of and agreement to surrender a U.S. Navy underwater drone over the weekend. This illustrates a reality that, like the ratio, seems to be greater than it used to be: The minute people know when you’ll be giving up your leadership position, and especially when they know who will take it over, you’ve lost it, regardless of what the calendar says.

Obama isn’t the only leader in that awkward situation. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson will turn over the CEO’s job to Darren Woods on January 1; Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman will be succeeded by Jim Umpleby on the same day; Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent will be succeeded by James Quincey on May 1. All those companies are corporate aristocrats in which the new leader will maintain a respectful public silence until the appointed day. But internally, we all know that attention has already shifted entirely to the new leader’s every movement and utterance. The CEO, though still carrying the title, is yesterday’s man.

In a world of instantaneous near-universal communication in which nearly everyone can reach nearly everyone else continually, leaders may want to reconsider policies on leadership transition. Mandatory retirement dates, once seen as a sign of comforting stability and predictability, may no longer make sense. Obviously we still want mandated terms for government leaders. But for other organizations, strict retirement policies may now weaken a leader from his or her first day in the top position by telling everyone when he or she will leave. That’s especially true as life expectancies rise and more leaders remain at the top of their game well past age 65. Warren Buffett, still performing spectacularly at 86, once told Fortune how he feels about the CEOs of his subsidiary companies: “My God, good managers are so scarce I can’t afford the luxury of letting them go just because they’ve added a year to their age.”

Investors still like to see a strong leadership pipeline as the boss gets older. But the old practice of naming the successor six months or even a year in advance is senseless in today’s environment; no company should be hamstrung with a lame duck leader for that long. And as for when the best time to change a leader, the best advice now is: Keep ’em guessing.

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What We’re Reading Today

Senators call for investigation into Russian hacking
A bipartisan group of senators that includes Arizona’s John McCain and New York’s Chuck Schumer wants a special committee to investigate how Russia tried to influence the election. McCain said there’s “no doubt” that Russia interfered; the investigation would try to determine how much it affected the election and how Russia pulled it off. Los Angeles Times

China and Trump battle over drone
President-elect Donald Trump labeled China’s seizure of a U.S. underwater drone  theft, which Beijing has taken as an insult. It has offered to return the drone; Trump says China can keep it, though of course that’s not for him to say. The spat intensifies the growing conflict with Beijing before Trump even enters office. CNN

Electoral College meets today
Despite a campaign urging electors to vote for Hillary Clinton, Trump is expected to win today’s balloting. Clinton’s substantial majority of the popular vote has focused attention on the Electoral College’s proceedings this year, but while one Trump elector is expected to vote for Clinton, it’s not likely that many others will do the same.  NYT

Duterte admits to opioid use
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he has abused fentanyl, which he started using to help with his back pain. Fentanyl is much stronger than morphine and was linked to the death of Prince. Duterte later said he was joking, but Philippine lawmakers have called for more information on his health history. Some critics say drug abuse has affected his state of mind in waging war against drug peddlers. TIME

Building Better Leaders

Workplace incivility is on the rise
The proportion of workers stating they’re treated rudely at least once a month has risen from about 50% in 1998 to 62% now. McKinsey

Only $24 billion was raised in IPOs this year
That’s the lowest total since 2003 and the second lowest since 1992. Fortune

Most law students are women…
…for the first time ever, with just over 50%. Overall law school enrollment continues to stagnate. NYT

Worth Considering

Star Wars remains a bright spot for Disney
Rogue One pulled in $155 million in the U.S. over its first weekend, the second best December opening ever, bested only by last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The opening beat expectations and confirms the tactic used by Bob Iger‘s Disney, spinning off side stories within the Star Wars franchise. Fortune

Nintendo’s Mario Run flops
Nintendo seemingly had a hit with Mario Run, it’s new iOS game, which topped the charts as millions of users paid $9.99 to unlock the entire game. But Nintendo’s stock is down 11% since the launch, in part because of user complaints. Tatsumi Kimishima‘s company may also have mis-priced the game; a flat fee could limit revenue. CNN

Ireland says EU tax decision against Apple is wrong
The European Union ordered Tim Cook‘s Apple to repay $13.6 billion to Ireland because a tax deal was too generous. In papers published today, Ireland says the EU misinterpreted Irish tax law and is now trying to rewrite the country’s rules. WSJ

Up or Out

Sumner Redstone will step down from Viacom’s board in February.  Reuters

Chipotle has named Ali Namvar, a partner at the hedge fund Pershing Square, and Matthew Paull, former CFO of McDonald’s and a member of Pershing Square’s advisory board, to the board of directors following an agreement with investor Pershing Square to add new directors. Two other directors without links to Pershing Square – Paul Cappuccio and Robin Hickenlooper – were also added.  CNBC

Fortune Reads and Videos

Beijing covered by smog blanket
The pollution is so serious that the government has closed many businesses, and some schools have been shut until Wednesday. Fortune

Mark Cuban calls on Donald Trump…
…to be the robotics President. “We have to win the robotics race,” says Cuban. “We are not even close right now.” Fortune 

Alphabet’s Waymo unveils its…
…Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. It’s the first time Waymo has worked directly with an automaker, adding 100 of the vans to its fleet. Fortune

New tool allows for real-time fact checks on…
…president-elect Trump‘s tweets. Fortune

Happy Birthday

Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson turns 55 today.  The Richest

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