In 2015, Old Power Triumphed Over New Power, Again and Again

In 2015, “old power” people and tactics triumphed in politics and business around the world. Sometimes, good people behaving nicely did well and received deserved plaudits, but not often enough.

This year, there was lots of talk about transparency, holacracy, the power of social networks to constrain selfish or dishonest behavior, and so forth. Meanwhile, the facts of leadership and power remained anchored in a social dynamic that Machiavelli would easily recognize.

This is Why Donald Trump Will Lead the Polls Far Longer Than You Expect

Many pundits such as David Brooks expect the Trump bubble to burst and his support to fade as voters get more serious about the election and give Trump and his rhetoric and policy positions a closer look. But supposedly knowledgeable observers have been predicting Trump’s fade for months. Meanwhile, recent polls show him leading the field with more support among Republicans than ever. Here are some social psychological principles that make sense of the “Trump phenomenon.”

This Is What’s Wrong With Ben Carson’s Life Story

Was he admitted to West Point? Was his childhood adversity and temperament precisely as he described them? Did he really try to stab someone in high school?

The recent flap over Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s life story and its accuracy offers a lesson that applies to anyone who’s ever recounted an autobiographical tale, including many other political candidates whose personal narratives include factual errors. That is, self-reported personal anecdotes are seldom entirely accurate and truthful, because they almost can’t be.

Here’s why.

When people talk about themselves and their pasts, they are motivated to both selectively remember and selectively disclose positive personal information.

Corporate apologies: Beware the pitfalls of saying sorry

Apologies are in the air these days. This month, outgoing Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley took responsibility for the consumer product giant’s weak performance at the company’s annual meeting and promised improvements. United’s new (and currently sidelined) CEO Oscar Munoz apologized to the company’s employees and passengers for its poor treatment of them. Pope Francis apologized—again—for the scandals bedeviling the Catholic church. Volkswagen apologized for selling cars with software designed to defeat pollution control regulations. And more than a year ago, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, “gave a full-throated apology for the defect-and-recall disaster” arising from flawed ignition switches.

What Starbucks can learn from Pope Francis

The juxtaposition seemed striking: on the one hand, Pope Francis in the U.S. with his message of taking care of the poor and the forgotten—a Pope who had published an encyclical speaking to the challenges of inequality and reminding us that “human beings too are creatures of this world”—and on that same day, an article describing the inconsistent way in which Starbucks was implementing its proposed policy to give its hourly store workers more notice about their ever-shifting schedules and total hours of work.

Carly Fiorina: Why you shouldn’t underestimate her

While pundits endlessly debate Carly Fiorina’s record at Hewlett-Packard — how much of the stock price decline during her tenure was her fault; was the Compaq merger, about to be undone in the impending split of the company, smart or dumb; how much did H-P really increase its sales and inventiveness during her reign, and so forth — there’s one thing no one should question: Fiorina has mastered some important lessons in leadership, lessons relevant for anyone.

Here are four things that anyone, running for president or not, can and should do:

How the Trump bubble might burst

At breakfast, Steve Westly, employee No. 22 at eBay, former California state controller, and a candidate for governor in the 2018 race, explained that his political campaign was like growing a startup from scratch to $30 million in about 18 months, with all the scaling up and operational issues such growth entailed. The challenge would be many orders of magnitude larger in a national presidential campaign.

3 lessons from the Amazon takedown

The recent New York Times profile of describing its relentless, high-pressure, measurement-obsessed culture is scarcely the first to depict what it is like to work there, either in its warehouses or its offices. While CEO Jeff Bezos has denied (no surprise) the accuracy of the reporting, a quick Web search reveals numerous articles painting a picture remarkably consistent with this most recent portrayal: Amazon is a tough place to work, Bezos is famous for his temper and put-downs of employees, and many people who cannot stand the stress and pressure leave.

There are numerous lessons to be gained from considering Amazon, its culture, and its success—lessons that pertain to many other workplaces. Here are three:

Everything we bash Donald Trump for is actually what we seek in leaders

In the spring of 2014, I turned in a book manuscript about leadership that, because of the turmoil within the publishing industry, will only be published next month. In the index for that book: entries for Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.

I wish I could say I was prescient about the unfolding race for the Republican nomination, but I wasn’t even thinking about this ever-entertaining spectacle. Instead, I was trying to address a topic that’s vitally important to individuals who want to thrive in today’s intensely competitive work world: the enormous disconnect between the leadership prescriptions regularly offered to an unsuspecting public by the enormous leadership industry and what social science and everyday observation suggest is the best path to individual success. For the most part, real-world success comes from behaviors that are precisely the opposite of typical leadership prescriptions.

The case against the ‘gig economy’

When I first met Andrew Berlin at a Stanford executive program in the early 1990s, Berlin Packaging was a small enterprise doing maybe $40 million in sales in what was then, and still is, a very tough, almost commodity-like industry. Today, the packaging company brings in close to $1 billion in annual revenues, Andrew Berlin has an ownership interest in the Chicago Cubs and a World Series ring from his past ownership interest in the White Sox, and he runs a company growing earnings at a low double-digit rate that achieves good margins.