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Trump Taps a Military Maverick

As a Power Sheet subscriber, you’re a connoisseur of leadership – so who do you consider the world’s very best leaders now? This spring Fortune will publish it’s annual ranking of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, and I would love to know your nominees. The rules are simple: We cast a wide net, considering leaders from every realm of endeavor, and nominees must be alive and active in a leadership role. That’s it. Make the case for your favorites or just send names – it’s up to you. I would really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks in advance.


A leader you may not know but will be hearing much more about is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s choice as National Security Adviser to replace the recently fired Michael Flynn. I’ve followed McMaster’s career for some time and can tell you he’s well worth your attention.

The main thing to know about him is that he’s a maverick who has repeatedly risked his Army career to do what he thinks is right. He made a name for himself in 1991 as a 28-year-old tank troop commander in the now-famous Battle of 73 Easting during Operation Desert Storm. His orders authorized him to advance only to the 70 Easting gridline on the map, but when a lieutenant told him they’d reached the limit of advance specified by their superiors, with the enemy on the run, McMaster replied, “Tell them we can’t stop. Tell them we’re in contact and we have to continue the attack. Tell them I’m sorry.” Result: McMaster’s unit, with only nine tanks, destroyed 57 Iraqi tanks, 28 infantry fighting vehicles, 11 light-armored tracked vehicles, 45 trucks, and three air defense artillery pieces. The U.S. suffered no casualties. The whole thing took 23 minutes.

Later, as a major, while getting his PhD at the University of North Carolina, he wrote a book called Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. That doesn’t sound like a book that would win friends in the military, but it’s now regarded in military circles as a classic.

Time named McMaster one of the 100 Most Influential People in 2014. In his profile, retired Lt. Gen. Dave Barno wrote that “the outspoken McMaster was passed over twice for selection for his first star. I watched senior Army generals argue over ways to end his career.” His fans won the day, obviously, and now, with three stars, McMaster is the first active-duty military officer to serve as National Security Adviser since Colin Powell and John Poindexter in the Reagan administration. This independent thinker’s performance in the Trump administration will be fascinating and instructive to watch.


Kraft Heinz ended its bizarrely brief bid for Unilever over the weekend, but neither company can go back to life as it was. Now that the concept of buying the stagnant Unilever is no longer unthinkable, CEO Paul Polman had better bulk up if he wants to remain independent. How? One popular hypothesis is that he could buy Colgate-Palmolive. Kraft Heinz’s stock jumped by double digits on announcement of the bid – highly unusual for an acquirer’s stock – increasing the pressure on the company to make a major acquisition. Wall Street’s favorite candidate for a target: Mondelez International. The waters may be calm again for the moment, but much is undoubtedly roiling beneath the surface.

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What We’re Reading Today

Kraft Heinz’s failed bid for Unilever…
…fits a growing trend of proposed megadeals that go nowhere; it’s the 87th deal to fall through this year. Companies don’t fear deal failure because they aren’t punished in the market for it. Bernardo Hees‘s Kraft Heinz bid $143 billion for Paul Polman‘s Unilever but withdrew just days later in the face of Unilever’s fierce opposition. Fortune

Trump names McMaster as National Security Adviser
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will replace Michael Flynn, who Trump fired after just 24 days. Chief of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, McMaster becomes the first active-duty military officer to take the role since Gen. Colin Powell CNN

Republican congressional leaders face town halls 
Republican legislators including Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, and Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn will host town halls today despite potentially hostile crowds. Some congressional Republicans have canceled such events after colleagues faced highly vocal protests over healthcare and other issues. But canceling opens legislators to criticism for not discussing important issues with constituents. NYT

Building Better Leaders

CEOs look the part
Researchers found that people believe CEOs look more competent than non-CEO executives of the same age, race, and gender, without knowing which one was the CEO. WSJ

To increase your productivity…
…automate repetitive tasks. Apps that automatically log work hours, for example, can scratch that dreary task from your to-do list. Fortune

Bad habits that can destroy a career
Inability to follow through on a leader’s objective, a persistent negative attitude, and failing to own up to mistakes can derail a career, even for those who work hard. CNBC

Worth Considering

Regulators focus on Airbnb and Uber
Brian Chesky‘s Airbnb and Travis Kalanick‘s Uber grew to multi-billion-dollar companies on ease of use and low-cost business models. But cities are increasingly restricting Airbnb rentals, while California and other jurisdictions consider forcing Uber to regard drivers as employees (with employment benefits) instead of independent contractors. More regulation erodes the sharing economy’s low costs and ease of use, reducing the businesses’ appeal. Fortune

Restaurant Brands prepares to buy Popeyes
The parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons is nearing a deal to purchase Cheryl Bachelder‘s Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for $1.7 billion. Daniel Schwartz‘s company, controlled by 3G Capital, which also runs Kraft Heinz and AB InBev, could benefit from offering more chicken, which accounts for 10% of fast food sales. A deal could be announced this week. Reuters

Toys “R” Us lays off 10%-15% of corporate workforce
David Brandon‘s company will eliminate about 250 jobs due as online shopping reduces foot traffic at its brick-and-mortar stores. WSJ

Fortune Reads and Videos

Russia is compiling a psychological dossier on President Trump
Former diplomats are preparing the memo to give Russian President Vladimir Putin insight into Trump’s mind. Fortune

Walmart reports that online holiday sales rose 29%
Shares are up 3% on the news. Shopper traffic at the world’s largest retailer also rose.  Fortune 

Google and Bing to fight illegal content
The two search engines have signed a code of practice in the U.K. to try to stop online piracy. The services will bury sites with pirated content further down in search results. Fortune

In China, at least 65 applications have been filed…
…to use “Ivanka” as a trademark. Fortune

Happy Birthday

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell turned 75 yesterday. Biography

Representative John Lewis turns 77 today. Biography

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner turns 47 today. CNBC


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Produced by Ryan Derousseau