Leadership: As Demonstrated by the 3rd Most Powerful Person in the World
It’s Donald Trump that’s the 3rd most powerful person in the world (behind Xi Jinping & Putin).
He might not hold that place for long, though.
First of all, why are we looking at Trump? Simple – because Trump is a businessman. Trump made his name in the real estate business, having started with his father before eventually moving onto TV with his show, “The Apprentice” amongst other TV show/movie appearances. He built up the Trump empire (sometimes, bringing it down too). His business legacy has been a rollercoaster of success and failures, much like his presidency. Is this a simple case of a good manager being a bad leader?
This is what Trump said about leadership at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2018, “With power comes obligation; a duty of loyalty to the people – workers, customers, people who have made you who you are.” While these words are inspirational and striking, how much of that obligation has he fulfilled? Now, because leaders are meant to be the manifestation of our values and the driving force for our goals, how much of what he has done has been a good example of effective leadership? Here are some invaluable lessons on leadership that we’ve learned from Trump:
Communication: Watch What You Say
Obama once said that Trump does not just have “periodic gaffes”, they’re “daily occurrences”. This is in reference to the day-to-day socially awkward/unintelligible comments that Trump makes. This is even more apparent because of his immediate access to the world through social media. On Twitter, he does not hold back. In a way, he is being genuine – he says what he wants, not caring about how people will react. In another, it can be viewed as someone who is in great need of some sort of a filter. Trevor Noah, a comedian and talk show host, has now coined a term for Trump’s way of communicating as “donsplaining” (a play on the term “mansplaining”). But, is “speak your truth, and only your truth” a good trait for a leader?
Communication, as a leader, is essential. For one, it is the backbone of an efficient, successful team. For another, not only are your employees looking to you for guidance, you are setting the example for them to follow. While there is nothing wrong with employing honesty in your communication, “honesty” can come on many forms – constructive criticism, open floors for divergent opinions, or discussions that allow for employees and management alike to learn from being vulnerable about setbacks and failures. If you cannot convey your message clearly, the likelihood of your employees executing your plans effectively will shrink. However, Trump’s habit of personalising issues makes it difficult for unbiased decisions that are not emotionally driven.
Transparency: Lead By Example
One would think that, since Trump spends so much time on social media, he would be open to being transparent. However, maybe, that is his way of ensuring that he seems transparent and up-to-date on current issues. Is it just a guise; a distraction for everything else that he is hiding? From keeping his tax returns private to using his power to pressure another leader for dirt on his competitor, there is nothing Trump doesn’t want to hide behind the façade of his “ingenuity”, “business acumen” and progress towards “making America great again”.
If you are a leader and you cannot be transparent, are you being a true leader? Why do you feel as if you cannot be transparent? A leader that cannot be transparent is a leader that knows that they will be condemned for whatever it is that they are doing behind closed doors. In the same way that Trump is now facing impeachment due to his transgressions (abuse of power and obstruction of Congress), leaders will eventually have to face reprimand in the workplace.
Competition: Trash talk is unnecessary
Trump is well known for being able to manage and control perceptions (could it be thanks to his habit of repeating one point over and over again?) He owns his own narrative (and even the ones that don’t concern him) as he uses social media to create biases both within and outside his supportive sphere. He finds a common enemy, bullies them (either by belittling them or threatening them) and creates situations where they are heavily criticised first by him, and then subsequently by the rest of the nation. Not only that, his authoritarian ways have led him to alienate allies such as China & the EU (by opposing trade tariffs) and publically chastising them (calling Justin Trudeau “two-faced” on camera).
Leadership is not attacking people – not even your competition. Instead, focus should be on ensuring you understand what the competition is doing better and then improving from there. By pointing fingers and being vocal about your distaste for your competition, you are ruining any chance of future collaborations and mutually beneficial agreements. Look at Apple, Google & Amazon – huge companies that go head to head on the daily in the tech world – who are now coming together to create the standard for smart home products. Who knows, while you are busy airing out your competitors “dirty laundry”, they are hard at work staying on top of their game and ensuring that they are producing results. They are “walking the walk” while you waste time “talking the talk”.
Teamwork: Have Each Other's Backs
The turnover rate for Trump’s team is incredibly high, with his volatility reflecting in his inability to retain his employees – who are forced to leave their posts or abandon them of their own accord. Once someone has proven to be inapt to deal with issues that arise and are related to him (often, a result of something he did said) they’re out. With his “sink or swim” leadership, he does not allow room for mistakes, improvement or guidance. Despite piling on the responsibilities onto his employees, he is not one to step in and take the lead but instead, only turns up to berate them for their mistakes – going as far as to kick them out if they so much as shake their head at his ideas and opinions.
A great leader will achieve results with limited collateral damage. As a leader is expected to be able to be the glue for the team – a leader that loses team members faster than you can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is one that is more often than not, not doing his/her job very well. People leave jobs not because of the job itself, but because they were led by a terrible leader. A common mistake that bad leaders make is that they generalise mistakes, strategies, work styles rather than personalise the work experience to suit the different learning curves, work personalities and cultures that they have under their wing. The thing about personalisation is that it takes effort and this effort often translates as care, value and support for the individual team members, who are then more likely to stay with you.
Accountability: Admit To Your Mistakes
One of the most apparent shortcomings of Trump’s leadership is the lack of accountability. Going hand in hand with a lack of transparency is Trump’s rampant aversion to admitting that he does anything wrong and is but a “genius”. Due to his belief that he can use money to erase his mistakes, he conducts himself as being above the law – a big mistake considering how he is now impeached. He is a prime example of what happens when your mistakes catch up with you and what happens when you try to go behind the law.
A good leader will hold his/herself responsible for mistakes that he/she has made. Meanwhile, a great & effective leader will hold his/herself accountable for the mistakes that the team has made. Great leadership differs from effective leadership. The difference is the principles and values that underlie what the leader does and why. You could have an amazing people-person leading your teams but producing minimal results. In today’s social media-driven, easily polarized and influenced world, we need to step back and look at who we’re following, and what’s motivating us to do so.
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