Friday, 4 March 2016

Lessons from The Donald.

US politics are being shaken to its core.  The establishment is losing its control over the process as Donald Trump runs disruptively against traditional thinking in the Republican party.  His success, to date, is scaring mainstream voters across the US and indeed, around the world.  But it is foolish to think that he cannot win the nomination and perhaps even the Presidency.

That said, polls suggest that it is really a vocal and disenfranchised group that provides provides the basis for his strong showing.  This group is fed up with the status quo and they are looking for a leader to offer an alternative.  In Trump they have found a voice.

We can learn some important lessons from this scenario that have direct application in our business environment.  Here are a few for your consideration.

  1.  People look for leadership.  Every survey that I have read over the past 10 years shows a substantial level of disengagement in the workplace.  Some statistics put the figure as high as 60%.  During the early part of the economic crisis the number of management personnel reporting dissatisfaction reached levels in the 40-50%.  As the leader you must fulfill your responsibility to actually LEAD.  If you do not, then the people will find someone else to follow.  It is human nature.
  2. Control the narrative or you will be controlled by it.  Trump has said very little of substance but he has controlled the narrative.  People are no longer listening to the policies of his competitors because they have been relegated to a defensive position.  It has ceased to be a case of which candidate is the best.  By controlling the narrative Trump has positioned himself as the lessor of the evils.  He seldom runs on the basis of his experience or expertise but rather he compares himself to the competition with the attitude that implies '...I have my faults but I am better than them...'.  Your leadership position requires you to establish the priorities and the strategies.  When you don't - when you lose the narrative - someone else will fill the void...and likely not according to your agenda.
  3. Might does not make right!   For the most part, Trump has acted like a school yard bully.  He wants to build walls and keep out the undesirables.  He belittles others; speaks condescendingly, he has a clear superiority attitude about him.  While this bravado appeals to some within the Republican party, it clearly does not resonate with the majority of the total population.  In contrast, authentic leaders have self confidence that is a reflection of the esteem that others have for them.  It does not come at the expense of others.  In your work place you must lead on the basis of your authenticity; your integrity and your competence.  There is nothing about bullying, threatening, cajoling or coercing that has anything to do with leadership.  
  4. Organizations are organic and must change or die.  This is something most western governments, including the US and Canada, are not recognizing. Perhaps the single most important lesson we are learning from Trump is that the political status quo is simply not working.  A populace that is better educated and better connected is legitimately expecting more from government.  The middle class especially is a group forged by the fire of the economic malaise of the past decade.  It has grown tired of the lies and self serving interests of many politicians and their backers.  But these politicians continue to resist change.  In your leadership position you know that change is inevitable and it is usually a positive sign.  Your adaptability is critical in keeping pace with changes in technology; employee participation; and customer expectations.  Leaders change or are left behind and the message I hear coming from Trump supporters is just that.  The truly unfortunate thing is that Trump is the only one giving voice to this matter.  Others are simply defending the indefensible.
Trump is not leading.  He is simply providing an alternative.  Likewise, if you do not lead with authenticity others will find an alternative. 

Employees will find alternative employment or an alternative leader.  Customers will find alternative sources.  Suppliers will find alternative markets.

I doubt that Trump appreciates or cares about the lessons he is imparting.  Win or lose, he will still have a soft landing.  The same cannot be said for your failure to lead.  

Remember...reputation is what others think of you; character is what you really are...

Choose character! Lead well.

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