The Leadership We Need

Leadership Now Project Applauds CEOs Who Stepped Down from President’s Advisory Councils

It’s hard to be hopeful about the state of the country right now. The horrifying display of hate and violence in Charlottesville was shocking, but unfortunately not an isolated incident. Worse, the president’s response has proven yet again that he is willing to upend our most fundamental values. He is using hate, division and attacks on facts and science — tactics of the worst populists and autocrats — in his attempt to escape accountability for his own failures.

In light of these events, the Leadership Now Project welcomes the dissolution of the president’s Strategic & Policy Forum and the President’s Council on Manufacturing. The nearly 40 CEOs on the president’s councils took an unambiguous stand for American values by resigning in response to Trump’s actions, leaving the councils empty and forcing the president to disband them with an abrupt tweet.

The Leadership Now Project’s members are particularly thankful to CEOs Ken Frazier, Brian Krzanich, Kevin Plank, Bob Iger and Elon Musk who individually stepped down to defend their principles, and for all of the members of the councils who followed, refusing to tacitly validate the president’s actions. You have renewed the hope of many that the most powerful in this country will stand up for our values and future.

The fear that this president is capable of profoundly undermining our democracy is what brought the Leadership Now Project into being earlier this year. Our founding members believe that as business professionals we have both a particular obligation to demonstrate that real leadership looks nothing like this president’s leadership.

In June, our members spearheaded a letter signed on to by 160 Harvard Business School alums asking the five HBS graduates on the President’s Strategy and Policy Forum to step down in response to the Paris Climate Agreement withdrawal. The response was muted, only BCG CEO Rich Lesser responded to express shared concern about climate change, but did not step down. Ultimately, pressure from our group and others encouraged CEOs to rethink the legitimacy their participation on the councils provided the president. We can be proud that this week America’s CEOs took a principled stand.

Trump’s strategy to use a veneer of business support bought by tax cuts and regulatory relief to legitimize his worst impulses has failed with business leaders and with the majority of Americans. The future of his presidency is still being written, but we should all expect to be called upon to put our principles first in the months and years ahead.

Daniella Ballou-Aares, Founder, Leadership Now Project

The Leadership Now Project

We are a nonpartisan membership organization of business professionals committed to reinvigorating our democracy and supporting political leaders with integrity, whose decisions are fact- and science-based and who are committed to uniting rather than dividing our nation. If you are interested in keeping updated on our efforts you can sign-up for our weekly Stay Awake newsletter and join our Crowdpac community to learn more about the issues and candidates we highlight each week.