Are you ready to get “Trumped”?

#cajobportal Insights #130117

Are you ready to get “Trumped”?


Standing behind Ikea (Swedish) podium, smiling in front of a 4K Sony (Japanese) Video camera, speaking into a Dolby Sennheiser (German) microphone, with vigorous hand gestures which gave a glimpse of Rolex (Swiss) watch under the cuff, he said “Buy American, Hire American”.

The shock nature of Donald Trump’s victory in the US election has left the world scrambling to work out what it means for them. As a candidate, he made bombastic statements which would spell a dramatic shift in American foreign policy. Markets have struggled to predict what a Trump administration could mean for the economy, and his comments on the environment could have profound implications for the planet as a whole.

From his journey, we have gleaned certain leadership lessons that can be applied to any organizational leader

Clarity trumps style

When it came to the ‘down to the wire’ finish, it was Hillary Clinton’s ambiguous ‘Stronger Together’ Vs Trump’s clarity filled ‘Make America Great Again.’

While we could have multiple views on his style, it is very obvious that the clarity of his message apparently resonated with disaffected voters desiring change.

Whatever your natural style is as a leader, your people understand that everyone is unique. They may not find your style to be the most warm, engaging, or witty, but they will follow you if your vision, strategy, and direction are clear to them.

Our job as leaders is to take complex and complicated information and make the message simple

Everyone knows things are much more complicated than building a wall, for example, but that doesn’t matter because simplicity is what we want to hear.

Clarity trumps style.

Confidence & Passion sells

The message for business leaders is to be really clear and committed to something you do truly care about and stay on message

Because Trump is bold in what he says, many believe him for it.

Because Trump is bold in what he says, many believe him for it.  One looks up to leaders who, when confronted, instead of backing into a corner will double down, even if what they’re backing is crazy

It is not necessary that you act in an outrageous manner, gesticulate wildly, or yell into a microphone to convey passion. Just tap into your core as a leader, into those beliefs and philosophies about which you are most passionate, and then convey these to those you lead.

Whether it is through ideas, vision, or energy, if it is genuinely you, your passion will inspire action.

Direct messages get through

Donald Trump, got his message across mostly by directly talking to people at rallies and sending tweets to followers via Twitter. People said he spoke what they were thinking. It appears that his direct messages got through and resonated.

As a leader, you need to speak directly to people and make sure they understand your message. Assert your point of view clearly. Make sure that all those involved receive the communication at the same time, and that you do not nuance the message for different audiences to avoid conflict or adverse reactions. Direct messages get through

Integrity makes or breaks leaders

Donald Trump blurted out lewd and sexually charged comments about women as he waited to make a cameo appearance on a soap opera in 2005[1]

When the video went viral in social media in Oct’16, he quickly apologized to his wife, family, and the public for these abhorrent comments.

The remarks were captured by a live microphone that Trump did not appear to know was recording their conversation.

In a statement released by his campaign, Trump said: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Trump began to focus on lack of integrity in Washington with the phrase, “drain the swamp!” People suspected that Washington politicians were corrupt, and this phrase supported them in the belief that integrity matters, and that Trump would help restore it.

As a leader, when you confront a problem that is your own creation, admit it quickly and completely, apologize, and make necessary reparations. People do not expect you to be perfect, but they absolutely need to trust you. Trust is built in consistent installments of honest, sincere, open interactions over time. Speak the truth. Integrity matters.

All stakeholders matter – Manage them wisely

In a situation where the voters were becoming evenly split, it is clear that even a single vote counted. That’s the beauty of democracy.

It was clear that Trump’s strategy of “rally blitzkrieg” during the final weeks of the campaign was actually a winning strategy to connect with fringe stakeholders as people.

Trump’s campaign seems to have more clearly recognized that all stakeholders matter.

As a leader, you must identify your stakeholders and get to know them. Your team members, manager, internal/external customers, peers, senior leaders, family, and perhaps others hold a stake in your success — and you in theirs.

Regularly communicate with them, keep them informed, ask for feedback and suggestions, leverage their talents, and help them develop successfully.

All stakeholders matter.

Champion your group

Numerous psychologists suggest that the key to successful leadership is reflecting the key characteristics of the group you hope to lead. The more you’re seen as “one of us” by your team, the easier it will be for you to lead them.

As Trump himself put it:

I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country, and they are forgotten, but they will not be forgotten long. These are people who work hard but no longer have a voice. I am your voice.”

They’re an audience that feel forgotten by the mainstream. He loudly and brashly champions the disaffected and vows to return to them their justified status in a society that has ignored them for too long.

The language was designed to appeal to the in-group/out-group terminology that formed such a core part of Henri Tajfel’s social identity theory.

And they obliged by voting for him

Encashing Fear

“We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterized the 19th century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down — at any rate in Great Britain; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us.

I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another…”

John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)

In the 1930s, when Keynes wrote the prescient passage above, the right wing politicians of the times took those fears and drove our world into a decade of fascism and a massive World War.

Today Trump is heading down that path

His elevation was driven by fear of the future and “a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. You can safely assume that he whipped up Phobia of enormous proportions; stirred negative emotions amongst the masses and collectively utilized them for his success.

It would seem an incredible state of affairs if it wasn’t part of a wider movement that has seen Syriza form the government in Greece, the United Kingdom leave the European Union and the parties of Marime Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Norbert Hofer gain ground so worryingly across Europe.

Does his success mark the arrival of politicians who are not showing the way forward, they are making desperate attempts to cling to the past, a past that is gone forever?

The parallel that can be drawn with Modi

The Hillary Clinton Vs Donald Trump race in the US was a lot similar to the Gandhi dynasty versus Narendra Modi in India during last general elections

The Gandhi/Clinton camps, smug about their lineage, assumed the nation’s leadership was theirs by right. They focused on Muslims and minorities assuming that this line-up can overcome a split majority community. The intelligentsia and popular cultural figures became the overarching theme of the Clinton/Gandhi campaign

Modi/Trump and BJP/ Republican Party (GOP) and anyone who supported them were depicted as deplorable communalists/Islamaphobes and anti-immigrant. And throw in paternalist/sexist for extra effect.

However, the strategic lesson is that Clinton/Gandhi ignored the more general angst of an electorate that was concerned about corruption and economic matters.

It was clear that the electorate saw more to Trump/Modi than just deplorable communalist or Islamophobic sexists. They just didn’t want the election to be solely about Muslims or immigrants (from Mexico in the US and Bangladeshis through codewords in India).

Modi/Trump also rebelled against their party’s established leadership, which had to fall in line with some exceptions after the elections. With outsize egos and strong wills, they are exercising strong control over the government.

Patriotism is the rallying cry of Modi/Obama. Both have vowed to put their countries first and emphasise private sector-style of management. They are courting businesses at home and abroad to sign on to their agendas of job growth and “Make in India/America.”

Concluding thoughts

Donald J. Trump may fill you with optimism or with dread. But he has already been sworn as the 45th president of the United States of America

There is always a lesson to learn in any situation, and with these handful of lessons from DT we are well on our way to getting to our next level, the right way.

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