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Leadership Lessons From Donald Trump

You longed to be an effective leader. You are uncertain and apprehensive on whether you can be a good leader. You wish you could learn from great leaders and avoid disastrous examples.

2020 is the year the world needs adept leadership to maneuver through crises and opportunities. 2020 is the year of abundant leadership lessons from head-honchos who will make or break their organizations with astute management or disastrous faux-pas. 2020 is the year where you can learn leadership lessons by observing the numerous examples all over the world.

2020 started with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading like wildfire throughout the world. The twin devils of health and economic crises of unprecedented proportions were created. The resulting virtual lock-down of cities and travel restrictions in many countries devastated businesses and economies. The ravaging pandemic claimed lives young and old, white and black, male and female without discrimination.

The calamity brought out the best, and the worst in humanity. Spotlights are focused on world leaders on how they handle the ensuing crises. You have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn invaluable lessons in crisis management through the successes and failures of world leaders.

I have analyzed the leadership from 4 of Asia’s fastest-growing economies known as the 4 Asian Dragons. Let’s turn our attention to the leader of a country who has been making daily news: Donald Trump.

Many priceless gems of wisdom can be gathered from the leadership lessons Trump presented through his management of the crises in 2020.

Let’s dive in.

Trump’s Presidential Record Since 2016

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Trump’s Presidential Record Since 2016

We draw powerful lessons from the successes and mistakes made during a crisis. What defines a Leader is not the successes or mistakes he made, but his character and attitude in handling the issues during a crisis. Before we draw on the leadership lessons from Trump, let’s take a look at his Presidential record since 2016.

Trump Unexpected Victory at 2016 Presidential Election

Even Trump was shocked at his unexpected victory at the 2016 Presidential Election where he lost the popular vote by about 3 million.

The New York Times has this to say in 2016 about how someone without any government experience could win against establishment forces that were the “norm” of governance:

The triumph for Mr. Trump, 70, a real estate developer-turned-reality television star with no government experience, was a powerful rejection of the establishment forces that had assembled against him, from the world of business to government, and the consensus they had forged on everything from trade to immigration.

Did the voters make a mistake then?

Hell, no! The voters were reacting with their vote on the establishment of how their needs have been overlooked. They were sold to Trump’s promises that “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer”. Whether Trump lived up to his promises is another story.

Let’s fast-track to 2020 and see what Trump has done over the past 6 months.

Trump’s Management of COVID-19 Pandemic

Watch this 3.5 minutes video that succinctly contrasts the reaction of world leaders to the COVID-19 pandemic and that of Trump:

The Leadership of Donald Trump

Out of respect for the position of the President of the United States, I will not venture any further comments here. Suffice that you watch the video as I will be drawing on the content for the lessons that will be touched on later.

Trump’s Management of the Economic Crisis

President Donald Trump claimed in early June 2020 that the US economy was bouncing back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic after the economy regained 2.5 million jobs in May. That would be excellent news if true as many parts of the world are still reeling from the economic crises.

Let’s take a look at this short 3 minutes report from Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds:

Impact of COVID-19 on The US Economy

Trump’s Management of the George Floyd Protests

Trump’s leadership was again tested with world-wide protests triggered by the murder of a black man, George Floyd, by a white policeman. You can watch the 12-minute video below for the views of people on the ground including the reporter at the scene of protests. Alternatively, some food for thought will be listed just after the video:

Trump’s Response to George Floyd Protests

Several questions crossed my head as I watched the video above:

  • Why did the death of a black American at the knee of a white policeman trigger not just nation-wide protests across the USA but also in many parts of the world like Canada and the UK?
  • Why did Trump as President of the United States label the protestors as “thugs”?
  • Why did Trump quote an inflammatory phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”?
  • Why did Trump want to use the army, an institution to protect a country from foreign enemies, against the American protestors in the USA?
  • Did Trump display any empathy towards the death of George Floyd and the unhappiness of the protestors?
  • Would another person in the shoes of Trump be able to more effectively handle the protests?

Trump’s Reaction to John Bolton’s Book

John Bolton served as Trump’s National Security Advisor from April 2018 to September 2019. After leaving Trump’s service, John went ahead to write a book about his experience in the White House with Trump titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir”.

Here is a CNN news coverage of Trump’s reaction to John Bolton’s Book (10- minute video):

Trump’s Reaction to the Publication of John Bolton’s Book

The questions that came to my mind as I watched this video are:

  • Why did Trump try to block John Bolton’s book from being published by citing national security issues?
  • How can Trump claimed that the book was full of lies after filing in court that there were national security secrets in the book, basically admitting that John Bolton was publishing the truth?
  • How did Trump manage and choose his core team in his administration, as John Bolton was not the only key staff Trump was not happy about?
  • What proof did Trump present to show that John Bolton’s book was all lies?

Trump’s Management of the Media and Reporters

The media would be a natural place for leaders to get their voices and policies heard. Research into the media space revealed more questions than answers about how the US President handled the multiple threats the country was facing. A short 6–7 minutes uncensored video summarised Trump’s management of the media and reporters:

Trump’s Management of Media and Reporters

Trump’s Management of Intelligence Briefings for Important Events

A President’s decisions can be vital for national security and may even affect global events in the case of the President of the United States. Informed decision-making is crucial for a leader in an important position.

Let’s take a look at a Times Magazine report about Trump’s interaction with an important branch of his administration, the Intelligence community:

The Ignorant President

7 Mind-blowing Leadership Lessons For You

You want to provide good leadership to your team especially in times of crisis. You also need great leadership when your larger organization faces seemingly insurmountable challenges. Based on the observations of Trump above, let’s see what we can learn about respectable and excellent leadership.

#1 Know Your Followers

In the animal kingdom, a leader is chosen to protect the tribe. The leader of the tribe is usually the Alpha male who provides safety and territorial rights in exchange for the adoration of the females and the services of other males in the tribe.

To be an effective leader you need to, first of all, know who are your followers. You can be the leader of your family, your team members, people in your company, or fellow citizens of your country. This may sound painfully obvious but a lot of leaders in the blindness of their self-interest forget this first vital requirement of great leadership.

Does Trump know who he is serving?

#2 Serve the Needs of Your Followers

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In a family unit, if you play favorites and give special attention to a particular child, you are likely to lose the adoration and respect of the other children. The consequences can be more severe in a larger organization.

As a leader, you have to strive to provide for the needs of your followers, starting with the most basic needs as depicted in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs above. Trump’s 2016 election of “Make America Great Again” that satisfied more the psychological needs will not work in 2020 if the basic needs of the people are not met.

Trump’s response to the George Floyd protests appeared to be playing to the fear of a select group of people for safety needs at the expense of another group when he defended monuments over human lives. Following the example of a family unit, he has to be mindful of being a good “parent” when a big country of 330 million population is involved.

A great leader will attract many followers and there is a great leader who currently has a following of 2.3 billion people. He is Jesus Christ who taught his key disciples that a great leader serves the people he leads. An inspiring quote (Matthew 20:20–28) is found in his famed biography (The Holy Bible), which states:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

#3 Clear And Honest Communication

I watched a lot of news worldwide during the pandemic to understand what was going on around the world. There were 2 persons I loved to listen to whatever I can. They were crystal clear and brutally honest in their communication with the people they served.

One of them is the Head of the State of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo. New York State was the worst-hit city and center of the pandemic in the US at the early stages. Andrew avoided partisan politics and focus on the science of bringing the pandemic in the State of New York under control, as can be seen from the graph below. The number of daily cases was averaging more than 10,000 and Andrew through his astute leadership brought the number of cases down to less than 1,000 by early July 2020.

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The daily news conference given by Andrew was informative with no B.S. and Andrew empathetically convinced his people, adoringly called the “New York Toughs”, to follow his directions to beat the hell out of the pandemic.

Trump was still claiming that the coronavirus was a hoax despite the bleak picture of the coronavirus situation under his charge depicted below where the daily average infections have way exceeded 50,000:

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Instead of being concerned about the loss of lives like Andrew who empathized with his New York Toughs, Trump was caught on National Television several times “wishing” and “believing” that the coronavirus would just go away.

#4 Choose the Right Core Team

Under a powerful general there are no feeble soldiers. ~ Japanese Proverbs

A strong general needs capable soldiers to fight the war. Many ancient proverbs touted the importance of a great leader in attracting strong followers.

The small city-state of Singapore made a blunder in failing to take note of the 300,000 foreign workers living in tightly packed dormitories. The resulting explosive outbreak of coronavirus amongst the foreign workers from April 2020 would have sunk the country had it not been for the strong, decisive leadership and team-work of the country’s elite as reported in Forbes.

A report confirmed that President Trump’s “A-Team” turnover was 88% as of June 29, 2020. The situation was tantamount to the massive desertion of troops during a war. The natural question would be whether it was the fault of the Commander-in-chief, or the troops following the Commander. The statistics that 39% of President Trump’s “A-Team” departures have undergone serial turnover as of June 29, 2020, put to rest the answer to that question.

A rampant situation of core staff departure would arise if the first 3 conditions of leadership are not met:

  • Know your followers
  • Serve their needs
  • Clear and honest communication with the team

Without a strong team, it would be difficult to manage a large organization.

#5 Delegate And Empower With Clear Objectives

“If your imagination leads you to understand how quickly people grant your requests when those requests appeal to their self-interest, you can have practically anything you go after.” — Napoleon Hill

Great Leadership is the innate ability to attract the right people to work for you because they desire to. With an Ace-Team you still need to delegate key tasks and empower them with clear objectives so that your overall organizational objectives are met.

If your team is small, you can choose to handle some tasks yourself. With a much larger organization, leadership skills will come into play to lead a larger team.

Learn to be the leader everyone wants to work for by studying the 12 ways recommended in the Forbes article.

#6 Be An Avid Learner

We know a leader is in trouble when even the physically challenged spent the effort to mock the ignorance of their leader. Trump has been referred to as the Ignorant President and his tendency to use his limited and inaccurate knowledge on public occasions has embarrassed his entourage as well as himself.

A very successful and well-known business leader admitted that his wealth of knowledge has helped him make many right decisions. Warren Buffet famously referred to his reading habits:

“I just sit in my office and read all day”

#7 Unify Your Tribe

“Unity is strength” has become such a cliche that many leaders don’t take it seriously. The strength of a leader derives from the strength of his/her team and that of the organization he/she leads.

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln made a famous speech where he lost the senate seat he was fighting for but it earned him the Presidency. The famous quote in the speech is:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

A great leader unified his team and went down in history as an outstanding leader. In contrast, short-term and short-sighted tactics to win an election against good values and sound strategy would invariably backfire. History will be the judge in Trump’s case.

Your Leadership Future

You are admired and respected as a great leader of your followers. You are glad you have an excellent A-Team that respects and listens to your directions. You have an enthralling sense of satisfaction leading your team to greater achievements.

Leaders are made and you can be an excellent leader. Learn from the best (and avoid mistakes of the worst) leaders. Incorporate the gems of wisdom gleaned from the examples above. Always put the interest of your people before self, be true to yourself and your followers and success will follow.

Lead your team to happiness and success!

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