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Introducing the Leadership Next podcast

March 17, 2020, 9:51 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Tired of working from home yet? Well here’s something to brighten your social-distanced day: my new podcast, Leadership Next. The first episode features an interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on how he views the social responsibility of business, as well as an interview with Oxford Professor Colin Mayer, whose book Prosperity: Better Business Makes the Greater Good, was cited by Nadella as shaping his views. You can access the podcast here. The second episode, featuring Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, is also being released today.

I launched this podcast because I’m convinced something big is happening in the world of business. The rules of the game have changed. I’ve covered the intersection of business and society for four decades, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started hearing the best leaders talk more earnestly about how to increase their positive impact on society. Some are making big commitments to climate action. Others are struggling to create new work opportunities for the disadvantaged. Still others are making strong public statements on controversial issues like gun control or gay and transgender rights.

The more I explored this, the more I found it was linked to a bigger set of changes in how large companies operate. The folks in charge spend much less time than they used to giving orders—decision-making has been pushed to the edge—and much more time offering inspiration, motivation, and even moral leadership. The pace of change is so rapid, they can no longer make decisions at the top, and instead have to create an environment where the right decisions are made further down the line.

These 21st century leaders also are less focused on physical and financial capital, and more focused on human capital. They are in a competition for the best employees, and the best employees want to work for companies doing good in the world. Increasingly, consumers and investors are demanding the same. And all of this is taking place in a world of hyper transparency, when any action, good or bad, can be amplified almost instantly around the globe on social media.

To explore these developments, I thought it best to go straight to the source: the CEOs who are at the leading edge, and are changing the business world as we know it. We’ll publish a new interview every week, so keep watching this space.

In addition, a few new Fortune stories to pay attention to today:

–Cliff Leaf’s interview with Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, who says the coronavirus is accelerating companies’ use of internal collaboration tools and other digital technologies. “That’s going to be a big area of opportunity (for us) to help clients.”

–Our list of the 100 best designed products of modern times. Number one on the list may not surprise you, but others will. (You may be tempted to dig your Walkman out of storage.)

Eamon Barrett and Grady McGregor’s piece on how densely-populated Macau managed to fend off the coronavirus. There’s a lesson there for the rest of us.

More news below.

Alan Murray


Volatile markets

In the wake of yesterday's carnage—the Dow suffered its worst one-day point loss ever—Asian markets were volatile but largely in the green, with the notable exception of South Korea's Kospi (down 2.5%). Europe also kicked off the day with a bright start, with the Stoxx 600 up 2.9%, but then the mood soured and it dipped below -3%; at the time of writing it's recovered to roughly neutral territory. U.S. futures suggest a mildly positive open. New York Times

Latest measures

U.S.: The Trump administration has recommended the closure of schools and avoidance of groups larger than 10 people, and the president told governors: "Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment—try getting it yourselves." France: The Macron administration has announced a two-week lockdown of the entire country, with 100,000 police ensuring people don't leave home, plus a $50 billion aid package. Germany: The Merkel administration has ordered the closure of non-essential shops and also urged people to stay at home, with non-essential travel essentially banned. U.K.: The Johnson administration has changed its tune on allowing the virus to sweep the nation, and now recommends strong social distancing. New Zealand: The Ardern administration has announced a $12 billion package of stimulus and bailout measures that amounts to 4% of GDP. France24

Hewson out

Marillyn Hewson is to step down as CEO of Lockheed Martin, after seven years at the helm—in the most recent two of those years, she has headed up Fortune's Most Powerful Women list. Hewson, 66, has worked full-time for the last half-century. She will be succeeded by American Tower CEO James Taiclet. "After the financial success of last year and the record $144 billion of business in backlog, the timing is right for this leadership transition," the company said. Fortune

Amazon hiring

The coronavirus crisis is at least being good to Amazon, as people turn to online deliveries at a frantic pace. The company is looking to hire an extra 100,000 people in the U.S. alone—for context, it employs 800,000 people today, globally—and will raise its pay for fulfillment, transportation, store and delivery employees. Wall Street Journal


Airline support

The Trump administration has pledged to back the U.S. airline industry following its calls for over $50 billion in aid. But should it? New analysis shows the major carriers spent the last decade using almost all their spare cash—as in, 96%—for share buybacks. BBC

Where's the bottom?

According to Goldman Sachs, we have not yet hit the bottom. The company reckons the S&P 500 could be down to 2,000 points by mid-year. Anne Srader's piece contains this advice from financial analyst Greg McBride: "Thinking 5, 10 years down the road could prevent that regrettable knee-jerk selling reaction and reveal potential buying opportunities." Fortune

Fake news

At a time when online disinformation is running dangerously rampant, a new report shows European fake news websites are making around $75 million a year in advertising, much of which is placed by Google. And yes, this includes sites peddling falsehoods about the coronavirus pandemic. Financial Times

Hanks for that

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks have been released from hospital in Australia, following their positive coronavirus tests. They are now in self-quarantine. Less good news: Idris Elba has it now. CNBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.