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9 ways to tell if you’re a leader worth following

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Is leadership something people are naturally born with, or something we can learn?

It’s a question that’s brought much debate, yet if you end up in a position of leadership, the true question worth asking is: are you one worth following?

That question in itself is posed in “The Business Sergeant’s Field Manual” — a book written by leadership and management coach Chris Hallberg that draws upon practices and lessons he learned from his time in the military and applies them to real-life business world situations.

“A leader’s primary job is to be a support system for their employees,” Hallberg told CNBC Make It by email. “Serving them in any way you can will not only benefit your rapport with each employee, but will also benefit the company and its culture as a whole.”

So what does it take to be a leader that’s not only respected by their employees, but seen as one worth following — and potentially even mimicking?

Enter Hallberg: in his book, he breaks down nine key steps for leaders to consider when it comes to the workplace.

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The case against Tom Barrack could draw classified material into court

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Tom Barrack, chairman of Colony NorthStar Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Tom Barrack’s defense attorneys have their work cut out for them, given the breadth and specificity of the evidence in the 45-page federal indictment against him filed last week.

Prosecutors allege that Barrack secretly took direction from the government of the United Arab Emirates, and used his status as an informal advisor to the Trump White House on Middle East strategy to push for the policies that Emirati officials told him to.

In a case that features a co-defendant who was working for the UAE’s intelligence service, and a sensitive subject like U.S. policy in the Middle East, experts say there are several unusual paths the defense could take.

For example, if Barrack’s lawyers try to argue that the White House knew he was working on behalf of the UAE, the conversations Barrack had with U.S. officials, telling them whom he was working for could contain classified material.

In the event they do, there’s a chance Barrack’s defense lawyers could resort to a legal defense tactic called graymail. 

Graymail happens when the defense threatens to expose classified government information during the course of a trial, in the hopes of forcing the government to drop the case rather than risk the exposure of potentially damaging state secrets or agents. 

Barrack’s attorneys did not respond to questions from CNBC about their strategy.

“It’s absolutely possible that the defense will threaten to expose classified information in order to prove [Barrack] wasn’t acting without anyone’s knowledge,” said a former top national security official who was granted anonymity to discuss how classified material is used.

In order to prevent defense attorneys in national security cases from deploying graymail, prosecutors typically tailor their strategy to avoid making classified material a relevant or necessary part of mounting a defense. 

Barrack, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was charged along with Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, an Emirati national with close ties to the royal family, and Matthew Grimes, a junior employee at Colony Capital, which Barrack founded. 

Grimes and Barrack have pleaded not guilty. Al Malik is still at large. 

Thomas Barrack, a billionaire friend of Donald Trump who chaired the former president’s inaugural fund, stands beside his co-defendant and former employee Matthew Grimes and his lawyer Matt Herrington during their arraignment hearing at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., July 26, 2021 in this courtroom sketch.

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Curious timeline

The desire to avoid classified information could help to explain a curious element of the formal indictment against Barrack: The timeline. 

It appears to be carefully designed to keep alleged crimes within a specific time frame, from April 2016 to October 2017.

After 18 months of near-constant communication among the three defendants, the last contact in the indictment is a text message on Oct. 11, 2017. 

The messages indicate that, at the time, the three co-defendants were ramping up an effort to influence how the U.S. responded to a UAE and Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

But whether Barrack and his co-defendants succeeded may never be publicly known, because the indictment ends abruptly with the Oct. 11 message. 

“It seems like they have some evidence after that that they don’t want to surface, because it could be relevant to these charges,” said the former national security official. 

The duration of the overall conspiracy, prosecutors said, was two years, from April 2016 to April 2018.

But the indictment doesn’t describe what happened during the six months between October 2017 and April 2018.

Yet even with careful planning by the prosecution, several defense strategies could still draw on classified information while remaining inside the current window of time.

Back channels

“I think the Trump administration sort of created new norms in terms of the communications through back, rather than transparent and official, channels,” said Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the Intelligence Community from 2018-20. 

“We saw that with Russia and Ukraine, and there were allegations that it was done with China.” 

Shortly after Trump was elected in 2016, Kushner tried to open a back channel for Trump to communicate privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

A few months later, Kushner privately worked with China’s ambassador to arrange a summit meeting for Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Palm Beach resort. 

In 2019, Trump was impeached for pressuring the president of Ukraine to open a sham investigation into Trump’s political rival, then-candidate Joe Biden. 

The prevalence of these unofficial channels made it difficult to know exactly what the Trump administration was saying to allies and adversaries overseas at any given time.

But this confusion could also factor into another possible defense strategy for Barrack, said Atkinson, now a partner at Crowell & Moring.

Barrack’s lawyers “could argue that there was no harm, because the interests of the United States and the UAE were aligned in these matters. So no harm, no foul,” he said.

“They could even try to argue that what these defendants were doing was in the best interests of the United States,” he said.

This is the argument that Al Malik’s lawyer, Bill Coffield, made to The Intercept in 2019. Coffield denied that his client was a spy, but declined to answer more specific questions. 

Al Malik “is a businessman who loves the UAE and the U.S.,” Coffield said at the time. “He has openly shared his beliefs that the best way to forge a stronger bond is through economic prosperity.”

Atkinson, however, is skeptical that this defense would work. 

“This is not a viable defense under the statute,” he said. 

“Even in cases where the United States and a foreign country are pursuing the same objectives, the government doesn’t want people sitting in those types of meetings, and not knowing that they’re acting at the behest, or the direction, of a foreign government.”

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How investors can position portfolios amid China crackdown

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The “tug-of-war” between the Chinese government and capital markets triggered this week’s wild market swings — but investors can position themselves despite the uncertainty, said Cedric Chehab from Fitch Solutions.

“Corporate China is having to navigate a more demanding government and regulatory sector,” Chehab, global head of country risk at Fitch Solutions, told CNBC on Thursday. “For investors, that proves a little bit more challenging cause you don’t know which sector … could come under greater scrutiny going forward.”

Chinese markets have had a rollercoaster week after a series of regulatory announcements aimed at increasing oversight in sectors ranging from technology to education and food-delivery.

The crackdown spooked investors and sent Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index plunging more than 8% in two days before rebounding on Wednesday and Thursday.

Stock picks and investing trends from CNBC Pro:

Still, there are three areas in the Chinese markets that investors can focus on that may have less volatility, Chehab told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”

“Focus on those … companies and sectors that are leveraged to the economic recovery,” he said, adding that they can give “some cover.”

Next, investors can identify sectors that have come under less regulatory scrutiny by Beijing in the last few months or quarters, Chehab added.

Finally, look at sectors that have been largely identified by the Chinese government as “not particularly important from a national security perspective.”

“You have a bit of a tug-of-war in terms of what the government wants and what capital markets want to do,” Chehab said.

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Malaysia daily cases per million people among highest globally

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A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measures against Covid-19 walks along an empty street in Chinatown.

Wong Fok Loy| SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

The Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia has become one of the worst globally.

On a seven-day moving average basis, Malaysia recorded 483.72 confirmed Covid infections per million people on Wednesday — the eighth highest globally and top in Asia, according to the latest data compiled by online repository Our World in Data.

Meanwhile, the country’s daily reported deaths relating to Covid were around 4.90 per million people on Tuesday on a seven-day moving average basis. That’s the 19th highest globally and third highest in Asia, the data showed.

Our World in Data is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Oxford and U.K. non-profit organization Global Change Data Lab.

Malaysia managed to keep the number of infections low for much of 2020. But the country has struggled to tame a surge in cases despite implementing multiple rounds of restrictions and a state of emergency.

Political analysts blame the government’s mishandling of the outbreak as it worsened.

“Malaysia’s response is being hampered by chaotic governance and persistent political infighting,” Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at think tank Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a report.

Malaysia’s political crisis

The Southeast Asian country plunged into political turmoil when former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unexpectedly resigned in February last year. It paved the way for Muhyiddin to form a government by cobbling together a fragile coalition.

Political opponents have long challenged Muhyiddin’s claim of majority support in the country’s 222-seat parliament. Calls for the prime minister’s resignation — even among his allies — grew louder after Malaysia’s king on Thursday issued a rare rebuke over the government’s handling of the state of emergency.

The king had consented to Muhyiddin’s request for a state of emergency from January to August 1 to manage the country’s surging Covid infections.

Many analysts considered the move an attempt by the embattled prime minister to preserve his political standing, especially when parliament was suspended under the emergency and elections cannot be held.

When parliament reconvened this week, the government surprised the nation by announcing that it had decided to end the emergency effective July 21. The king said the government’s unilateral revocation did not follow constitutional procedure.

Since coming to power, Muhyiddin has sought to avoid parliamentary votes that his political opponents could use as a proxy to a no-confidence vote against his leadership. The Malaysian parliament has never voted on a no-confidence motion.

Covid vaccinations picking up

Despite the political tussle, Malaysian authorities have accelerated the pace of vaccinations in recent weeks. More than 18% of the country’s 32 million population have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.    

Economists from British bank Barclays estimated that Malaysia — along with Singapore and South Korea — will be among the Asian countries to reach “critical levels” of vaccinations this year.

The Malaysian government said it aimed to inoculate most of the adult population by year-end.

Still, economists said the worsening outbreak and ongoing social-distancing measures have hurt Malaysia’s growth outlook.

Barclays last month cut its 2021 growth projection from 5.5% to 5%. That’s well below the Malaysian central bank’s forecast range of 6% to 7.5%.

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