What Donald Trump Can (and Shouldn’t) Teach Us About Leadership

Full disclosure: There is absolutely no political agenda here.

This is not about the right vs the left or which candidate is best; it’s about leadership.

It feels like every day Donald Trump makes new controversial headline, whether it be Megyn Kelly, Sen. John McCain, or Rosie O’Donnell. I could literally go on. And on. And on.

There is an interesting dichotomy happening here – people who like Trump’s blunt honesty and those who find it offensive.

This dichotomy says a lot about his polarizing leadership style.

Good leaders aren’t like Trump

Good leaders lead. They create a plan that is all inclusive and rally their followers, they develop processes to implement their plan, and they communicate the key points regularly and transparently.

Donald Trump does none of these things. He is not all inclusive. I don’t know where he stands on the issues (and how he’d implement changes). And, he isn’t communicating clearly.

He has alienated Mexicans, women, and even alienated his own party.

Good leaders know how to rally the troops, unite the team, and drive the efforts forward –  not segment out a portion of the population and brand them as something negative.

Don’t laugh (unless it’s at Trump’s hair), but there is a lot you can learn from Donald Trump. To be a good leader, here are three key areas to focus on:

1. Know the line between Trumpism and directness

It’s OK to be direct. It’s not OK to be offensive.

There is nothing wrong with being direct, to the point, and being a little edgy, but be respectful. Pushing boundaries is often how we evolve as a society – and organizationally.

But there is word out there that balances it out. It’s called diplomacy, and calling Mexicans rapists and murderers and saying that Megyn Kelly was hormonal is not diplomacy.

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In order to get people to listen (and follow), you need to find a balance between standing your ground and being diplomatic. You need to find a balance of being direct yet respectful.

2. Don’t stereotype, period

Good leaders pay attention to – and show they value – the diversity of employees and customers (and voters!).  If you want high engagement and performance (and votes!), people need to feel as though you respect them and  “their full selves!”

So don’t assume or perpetuate stereotypes. In fact, the key to success is breaking stereotypical behavior and patterns. Think outside the box and you’ll gain new followers who generate new ideas and a new vantage point that will help you succeed.

3. Share your vision, not the rhetoric

Good leaders share their vision of the future, where they see the team going and how “we” can get there together. Calling Megyn Kelly hormonal and Rosie O’Donnell nasty names is rhetoric, not a vision. Rhetoric will get you headlines, not followers.

Share what you envision as the end game. Why is this necessary? How will people benefit? What is the best way to solve the problem? How can your followers help? And then obtain feedback about your vision and adjust as needed.

High performing leaders, teams, and individuals creatively and collaboratively solve issues and successfully implement solutions to achieve results. In order for an organization (or a nation) to succeed, it must have strong leadership. It must have a leader who understands active and honest communication, and open collaboration — a leader who gets the concept of diplomacy and diversity.

But it all starts at the top.

This was originally published on the Tolero Think Tank blog.

Scott Span, MSOD, is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions, an Organization Improvement & Strategy firm. He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable -- organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business. 

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