The Trump Style: You may not like it. But it evidently works.
Who would have thought that textbooks and workshops dealing with leadership would have to be so hastily rewritten?
Most of us old geezers have grown up in a world where we learned that successful leadership styles embrace certain tactics and values: telling the truth, respecting others, being inclusive, showing empathy, disagreeing gracefully, and seeking to win-win.
Well, clearly, maybe in the zeal to demonstrate how these elements of leadership are universal and must be embraced to succeed, we forgot that there are other ways to lead; other ways to power; other ways to get elected.
Few saw it coming. A new leadership style has won the day!
Telling lies, being disrespectful, pursuing exclusivity, demonstrating mercilessness, disagreeing forcefully, and tearing people down have been demonstrated to be leadership tactics and values that succeed.
(I will not bore you with examples of how Trump has used “all of the above”. If you disagree and believe he has not, you probably should read no further.)
Forget diplomacy, consensus building, and mediation. Those are meek attributes of leadership now. Now the name of the game is win at all costs, tear people down so you can build them back up, make them worship you. You are their leader!
So the issue at hand is, how much credence do we give this incident of success – Trump winning the Presidency – as an affirmation of this leadership style? Is it replicable elsewhere in business, government, and civil settings?
There are plenty of examples of some elements of similar to this Trumpanesque leadership style succeeding through the ages. Whether you like it or not – whether you agree with the results or not; whether you think it is right or wrong – the fact is that this leadership style works. It leads to success – at least for the leader.
We see this Trumpanesque leadership style in business all the time. Indeed, it could be argued that the only way to build a major company is to use many of these tactics. “All is fair in love and war.” Exxon, Goldman Sachs, and the like did not get powerful by being nice, accommodating, and empathetic. No. Ruthless “take no prisoner” approach to the cut-throat world of business got them to where they are today – highly successful enterprises.
We see this leadership style less in government, some might argue. But yet, historical examples abound. From the days of Genghis Khan to Adolf Hitler, history is full of merciless leaders that succeeded using these tactics and values. We don’t have to look too far back. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela (a duly elected leader) and Fidel Castro in Cuba (a Trojan horse if there ever was one) both demonstrated similar approach to gaining – and staying in – power. Indeed, even today we see Putin in Russia having over 75% approval rating, though he is unapologetically totalitarian and dictatorial.
In civic life these Tumpanesque values and tactics may not be as prevalent – but they do exist. More often than not they manifest themselves in manipulation and deception… But they are there nonetheless. More often than not they continue to exist because of apathy and neglect of the general public. But they exist nonetheless. When no one else steps up to lead, the self-absorbed, self-centered leaders step into the vacuum.
So, lest we give Mr. Trump too much credit, his leadership style has been around for a while and exists in varying ways…
… Maybe it is time we teach it in our schools and incorporate it in the bureaucracy.
After all, if it worked for the Chief, it should work for his followers, right? I expect no less from this Administration.
… and I – and many who remain committed to building a diverse, inclusive, and respectful society – will fight them (gracefully – but firmly!) every step of the way …