CEO Daily readers regularly remind me that this is a business newsletter, not a political one. But the line between the two has never been bright and has grown fuzzier in recent years. Business leaders feel compelled to take strong stands on issues once considered the realm of politics and government—climate change, inequality, racial injustice, and, most recently, public health. Meanwhile, President Trump feels free to personally intervene in individual business decisions with unprecedented abandon—his role in the TikTok deal being only the latest example.
So allow me a moment to reflect on the coming U.S. election. Some business leaders will be tempted to vote for the man who managed to achieve the unachievable by rewriting the corporate tax code, which previously penalized American-based businesses relative to overseas competitors; and who rolled back the regulatory tide of the Obama administration.
But as we have written here often, an ever-growing group of corporate leaders also recognizes that society is demanding a different kind of leadership. Today’s leaders increasingly embrace purpose beyond profit; provide their employees connection to a cause bigger than themselves; spend less time telling people what to do and more telling them how to do it; empathize, inspire, motivate, and urge their people to do, as my friend Dov Seidman puts it, not just the next thing right, but the next right thing.
Any way you measure it, Donald Trump has failed that test of leadership. Whether it’s his denial of science, his disregard for data and facts, his flirtations with dictators and violent extremists, his mismanagement of the pandemic, or his alienation of an amazingly broad array of talented people who worked for him, Trump is the antithesis of what CEOs tell me on a daily basis that they value in leaders.
If companies can do better, so can the country. The big problems mentioned above won’t be solved without a partnership between leaders in business and government. We don’t know yet if a President Biden can rise to that leadership challenge. But we do know President Trump can’t. Time to try something new.
And by the way, even if you disagree with the opinion expressed above, I hope you will all agree with this: Every business leader has a responsibility to both enable and encourage their colleagues and employees to do their civic duty and vote. Low participation rates in American elections have allowed the extremes to have outsized influence over both political parties. Higher participation rates would advance the common good.
For a deeper look at the state of American politics, read editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf’s essay for the November issue of the magazine, online here. Other news below. And check out our two new weekly podcasts: Brainstorm (Apple/Spotify), in which Fortune editors Brian O’Keefe and Michal Lev Ram look at how technology is tackling some society’s toughest problems—the latest episode focuses on fighting wildfires with technology—and Reinvent (Apple/Spotify), in which Adam Lashinsky and Beth Kowitt look at companies reinventing themselves, from Momofuku to BP.