Leadership: How Does Trump Stack Up?

by Dr Mark Bear

In my other line of work, I am an organizational consultant and trainer. Often, I am asked the million dollar question as to what constitutes “good leadership,” and I must confess it is not only a fair question, but important.

Sadly however, leadership is often misconstrued as persuading others to do one’s will, and we have several examples throughout the course of history which demonstrate this not to be the sole litmus test as to whether one is or is not a good leader.  That is, just because one can convince those around him to do his specific will does not automatically translate into that person being a “good leader.”

Some examples of poor leadership include Richard Nixon, Jim Jones, Adolph Hitler, and a host of other characters littering the leadership literature, and yet it can very well be argued that these men did in fact, persuade others to do their bidding.

So what does constitute good leadership, and more importantly, how would our current President, Donald Trump fare if evaluated with the standard descriptors found in the social psychological literature? More importantly, what are the attributes of good leadership? They include the following; modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the hearts of those around him or her.

Let’s do a brief review of these factors through the frame of Trump. Exemplary leaders stand for something, believe in something, and care about something. They find their voice by clarifying their personal values and then expressing those values in their own unique and authentic style.

We need to stop right here if we even care to provide an objective assessment of Trump, because at first glance one might be persuaded to believe that Trump does in fact, “express his values in his own unique style,” however, please note: the good leader – or the person one would want to follow – first finds his or her voice – and it is this voice which serves as the catalyst for the leader’s voice. The problem with Trump is apparent: He has embraced nearly every single position politically, making it quite difficult for those around him, let alone his own party, to follow him. Moreover, he has behaved in such an unprofessional manner at levels which are unprecedented, accusing those around him of being questionable, when evidence clearly points to him as being the problem. Note:

This is not what experts in my field – including myself – consider good leadership. Trump very well may be able to persuade people at a rally, however translating that speech into political governance is quite another thing, as we all are witnessing with the current GOP “Repeal and Replace ‘Obamacare'” effort.

Read: Trump: Don’t Believe Those Phony Numbers

Eloquent speeches about admirable beliefs – not being part of the “establishment” – however, aren’t nearly enough. Words and deeds must be consistent for leaders to have integrity. Leaders wishing to be effective must set the example by aligning their personal actions with shared values. To date, Trump has told his base that he would “drain the swamp,” only to turn around and state at one of his celebration rallies “how that statement was hokey to him,” and then providing evidence to any casual observer by surrounding himself with so many billionaires that one must ask: is he draining or filling the swamp?

There is no freeway to the future, folks. No paved highway from here to tomorrow. There is only wilderness! Only uncertain terrain. There are no road maps, and no signposts. Pioneering leaders – those that are considered the greatest in our social psychological literature – rely on a compass and a dream. They dream of what “might” be, and they passionately believe they can make a positive difference. But here is where things go awry again with Trump and if we are not careful, we might find ourselves believing him to actually possess this attribute. But does he?

Visions seen only by the leader are insufficient to mobilize and energize. One may argue that Trump was quite able to mobilize, as evidenced by the turn out for the previous election cycle, but Russian interference notwithstanding, this standard still misses the mark. Leaders enlist others by appealing to their shared aspirations.

Currently, Trump is reaching out only to those within his base, and is neglecting to appeal to the entire electorate, that is those within the ranks of the Democratic and Independent groups of our electorate. If he is to experience any level of success – long term – he will need to go beyond his mere rhetoric offered on the night of the election, and actually try to meet people in the middle. If he doesn’t, he will be a failed leader.

The work of leaders is change. To them the status quo is unacceptable. Leaders search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, not tear the entire system down, trying to rebuild it, and it surely appears through Trump’s approach that this is in fact, his goal. In fact, Steve Bannon, the very man who has Trump’s ear the most, is on record as stating how he wants to tear down the entire system.

But good leaders seize the initiative to make things happen, realizing they have no monopoly on good ideas, and they constantly scan the environment seeking other people – regardless of party affiliation – to assist in creating ways to do new things.

Read: Republican Liars: ObamaCare Myths Debunked

In other words, one cannot get from here to tomorrow in one giant leap. Extraordinary things get done one step at a time. The greatest leaders in our history have experimented and taken risks by constantly generating small wins and by learning from mistakes. And, despite persistent opposition – which is certain to come – and inevitable setbacks (which need to be admitted to versus denying they occur), leaders demonstrate the courage to continue the quest.

Let me be clear here folks: Trump very well may take risks, however those risks seem to be irresponsible and self-defeating. Sending your staff out to argue how the former President spied on you is nothing more than petty, and worse, when most folks realize it to be untrue, you as a leader risk losing all credibility. This is not something Trump should be surprised about because he began losing credibility when he entered the race, by seizing on the lie that our former President was not born in the United States, going so far as to tell an interviewer that, and I’m paraphrasing “I have people in Hawaii right now and they are finding things which are not all that good.”

Finally, when a leader suffers a setback he or she doesn’t go out of his way to exact retribution upon the dissident. Threatening to “keep a list of those who wronged you,” or worse, calling those who did not support you the “opposition party,” are unproductive ways to bridge the gap.

Leaders also know they cannot do the task alone. It takes partners to get extraordinary things accomplished in organizations and that challenge is even greater in government when having to deal with various factions with specific ideologies. In other words, it takes compromise. So, leaders foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. They develop teams with spirit and cohesion, being careful not to select each person with the mentality it be essential they all agree with you, for doing so endangers one’s leadership terribly.

Read: Trumpeters Tell Us We’ve Been Fooled But Don’t Tell Us How

Trump has violated the public’s ability to trust him, and now he has violated any modicum of trust which may have existed between his most important ally; the current Speaker of the House.

Lest you missed the news, Breitbart – the very online publication where Bannon comes from – published a story today trying to portray the Speaker in the worst terms because he told his caucus the day after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced in our media, “how he would never support Trump,” and is now using that statement made several months ago against the Speaker, this at a time when Trump NEEDS the Speaker.

Good leaders promote reciprocity between all players, something Trump will be unable to do now with the Speaker if he does not make the issue right with him. Finally, notice the first sentence of this point: leaders cannot do the task alone, yet Trump told the entire Nation he “alone was the person who could fix the nation,” hardly a sign of engaging in obtaining differing views as to what might be improved in our politics, and nation.

On every winning team, members need to share in the rewards of their efforts. So good leaders celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community. That means expressing pride in the accomplishments of the leader’s team, but when governing in the position Trump holds, it means he acknowledges EVERY person, every citizen’s accomplishment, regardless of their political support or affiliation. It is this obstacle which persists in plaguing Trump as President and prevents him from being effective and good as a leader.

So how does Trump stack up? You have the information now, and you can make the decision for yourself. However, when doing so perhaps we all should compare Trump to our previous President. Ask yourselves a question: How many of these attributes did our former President possess.

As I have made clear throughout all of my writing, our former President was not perfect, but at least he had the character essential to bring the country together. Just because there was a group of people in this nation who decided to believe lies and myths about the former President in no way mitigates his basic leadership style which very well can be argued met the above criteria I outlined, and in many cases far exceeded that criteria.

In closing, my personal and professional evaluation of Trump as a leader of the free world, utilizing the objective criteria outlined above, tells me he is more a salesman – able to motivate large groups of people to HIS vision – versus being a “good leader” who embraces a shared vision of ALL citizens in this nation.

Unless he alters his course radically – something I do not see occurring – I do not remain hopeful. Anyone – if trained to be successful – can be a salesman, but it is quite another to be a “good leader,” which takes years of incubation coupled with character; both criteria which he seems to lack. I hope – for our Nation – that Donald J. Trump – will be the exception to the rule, but fifty days into his Administration is showing otherwise.

Follow Dr. Bear on Facebook here, and on Twitter.


Kouzes J.M & Posner, (2004). The leadership challenge. Josey Bass, SF, CA.

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Posted by on March 15, 2017. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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4 Responses to Leadership: How Does Trump Stack Up?

  1. Michael John Scott Reply

    March 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

    The lying administration. Forever lying. Every single day. That’s how they stack up. Even Nixon didn’t lie this much.

  2. Timmy Mahoney Reply

    March 15, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    They are a bunch of criminals, every single one of them. All the words in the world won’t change that, nor will it rehabilitate this gang of thieves, but every little syllable helps. Keep writing.

  3. Leif Laursen Reply

    March 15, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Leaders and leadership without a huge ethical and moral conscience will in my eyes be like a private pilot licence holder trying to steer an A380 Without further education.
    You are of cause welcome to disagree with my, but please keep your disagreement in a proper language.
    I always try to keep a sober a tone.

  4. Rachael Reply

    March 15, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    It’s important to have a leader the people respect, or they won’t follow him or her. There are some who follow Trump and always will, but the majority won’t. He’s not a leader, but a corrupt monster.

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