Monday, January 30, 2017

Musings on Leadership and President Trump

Leadership:  I’ve worked for great leaders and I’ve worked for some pretty bad leaders, what I’ve come to learn is there are several common characteristics of good leaders.  They are:

1)   Problem Solvers – Great leaders are good problem solvers, this means they gather and use data to find the root cause of problems.  They develop a hypothesis on an approach to solve a problem and then collect data to either prove or disprove the hypothesis; they involve their team and solicit data and opinion.  They search for others that faced a similar problem and they study alternative solutions.  They don’t assume anything about the problem, not the source of the problem, not the solution.  They are thoughtful and disciplined.
2)   Empowering – Great leaders empower and instill confidence both within their organization and outside their organization.  They give their teams the tools they need to do their jobs and hold them accountable.  They also assume responsibility if their team does not achieve the intended goals, they don’t blame mistakes or failure on others in their team or on extenuating circumstance.
3)   Collaborative – Great leaders surround themselves with people that can challenge their thoughts.  They consult others regularly for their opinion.  They roll up their sleeves and join in the problem solving, while not necessarily solving the problem on their own.
4)   Communicative – Great leaders can communicate the vision and direction for the organization.  They justify and inform the team and outsiders for their direction, actions and end goals.
5)   Humility – Great leaders rarely take credit for the success of the team.  They are quick to acknowledge the contributions of other individuals and the team.
6)   Honesty – Great leaders are honest and their integrity is unquestionable.  They will not compromise integrity or follow questionable practices to achieve the end goal.  They will find the right way to approach the solution and be successful without betraying their integrity.  They maintain themselves beyond reproach.

As most of you know, I was not happy with the outcome of the election last November, but for the most part, I’ve stayed fairly quiet.  I must say, I want Trump to be successful; I want America to be a better place to live and work at the end of his term in office than on the day he took office.  I don’t want President Trump to fail, for if he fails we are all worse off. 

However, I am not too hopeful given what I have observed both in the run up to President Trump assuming the Presidency and in the first several days of his Presidency. To me he hasn’t shown the key factors I find to define great leadership.

Let’s take it from the top:
1)   Problem Solving – President Trump has a lot of problems to solve, just listen to his inaugural address.  We can agree or disagree with his list of problems, that is politics, but that’s not my issue at this point (more on that in subsequent posts).  Trump does not appear to be intellectually curious.  By that I mean he doesn’t appear to solicit other’s opinions that may differ from his and try to understand a different approach to the problem.  He doesn’t appear to look for data that will either support or refute his assumptions either about the problem itself or the proposed solution.  He doesn’t appear to think through his actions and potential implications.  His approach to problem solving does not appear to be thoughtful nor disciplined.
2)   Empowering – I don’t know the inner workings of his team, but it doesn’t appear that he is very empowering to his team.  He appears to be the type of leader that doesn’t encourage debate or dissension; it seems he only wants “yes-men”.  He also does not instill confidence through his actions in the people outside of his immediate sphere, including the American people.
3)   Collaborative – Again, this is hard to assess since I’m not able to see how he interacts with his team behind closed doors.  However it is hard to imagine that he fosters an open debate among his team given how openly hostile he is to any outside criticism.
4)   Communicative – President Trump is a total failure in this area.  He seems to only communicate via 140 character half thoughts via Twitter.  Good leaders articulate a vision and explain the data behind their decision making process.  They also explain how the reached their solution, other solutions considered and how their solution is the best course of action to solve a specific problem and potential effects and fallout of pursuing that course of action.  If he would focus on this more, and empower both his press secretary and his staff to communicate the same message effectively would dramatically improve his standing and limit criticism. Great leaders have very good communications teams.
5)   Humility – President Trump gets and absolute zero in this regard.  Time after time he has shown that he deserves all the credit for anything potentially positive and everyone else is to blame for anything negative.  It seems that this is just a core trait that he doesn’t possess.
6)   Honesty – This is another trait that Trump appears to lack.  He may or may not be capable of being honest, I don’t know.  But it is something he must work on.  Without honesty each and every decision will be tainted and questioned.  He never appears to tell the entire story.  Honesty would serve him well in overcoming many of his critics.

The first week of this presidency has been an unmitigated disaster.  Never in history has there been so many people openly protesting his presidential actions in the first week of a Presidency.   We probably haven’t seen protests on this scale since the Vietnam War. 

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