Viewpoint: What CEOs can learn from US presidents about political activism

In 2018, everyone from celebrities on Instagram to CEOs of healthcare companies are expected to share their political views. Yet for many CEOs, sharing political views publicly is new and risky territory. To speak effectively on such issues, executives can look to the model many U.S. presidents use as a guide, according to a column in The Wall Street Journal.

CEOs are used to making the business case for their decisions. However, those who lean too heavily on the business case in politics risk coming off as tone deaf. To avoid this, many CEOs choose to position their views on the other end of the spectrum as moral activism. However, the right balance is somewhere in the middle, according to author and WSJ deputy editor Sam Walker.

Take Apple CEO Tim Cook, for example: In 2017, he first publicly opposed President Donald Trump's immigration policies based on American values of inclusivity and diversity. He took the moral activist route — a safe choice, but there was an opportunity to make a more effective statement, according to Mr. Walker.

Mr. Cook should have linked those moral views to his duties as a CEO and the company's values, a tactic commonly used by U.S. presidents, according to Mr. Walker. For presidents, increasing the defense budget is protecting the peace.   

Mr. Cook later made this connection in his statement on a Trump policy to end deportation protections for children of undocumented immigrants. He opposed the policy because 250 of his employees, who make important contributions at Apple every day like everyone else, were "dreamers" who would be affected by it. Acknowledging the business as an extension of moral values made his statement more transparent, relevant and politically effective, according to Mr. Walker.

Read the full column here.

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