October 28, 2016
An anxious world watches, and waits, while the American public does its best to select a new leader. Perhaps it would help the process if we agree on what a good leader is.
Much has been said about Donald Trump’s bully ways. I think that’s a fair characterization of his approach. And in that sense, Trump is similar to LBJ or Steve Jobs. Each of those leaders prioritized the mission above anyone’s feelings. If you are useful to the mission, the bully leader praises and rewards you. If you are in the way, the bully leader pushes you aside without remorse. When selecting this type of leader, what matters most is the leader’s priorities. You can feel confident that the bully leader will get you there, but expect some casualties along the way. The bully leader often leaves a trail of destruction. Case in point, Jeb Bush will always be the “low energy” guy.
The bully leader is neither good nor bad. What matters is the leader’s priorities. Trump’s priorities are jobs, national defense, and making America greater. That’s not the bad kind of bully. And if you want to “drain the swamp,” a bully can be exactly the right choice.
Hillary Clinton offers what I would call more of a collaborative, inclusive leadership style. She is allegedly a big bully in person – such as to her Secret Service team – but she doesn’t use a bully style as a leader. Instead, Clinton creates an atmosphere in which her supporters feel a moral responsibility to bully their fellow citizens. She does that by framing Trump as a dangerous candidate who must be stopped in order to save the world from racism and nuclear destruction. I assume Clinton is following advice – as Obama did – from cognitive scientists who are experts at brainwashing the public.
As a leader, Clinton is not the type of bully that Trump is. Not even close. But unlike Trump, Clinton has intentionally deputized her supporters to be bullies so she can win the election. We see that bullying in the form of assaults on Trump supporters, widespread destruction of property owned by Trump supporters, and career damage to Trump supporters.
I think you’ll agree that neither Trump’s nor Clinton’s leadership style is ideal. One candidate is a bully – albeit with good priorities – and the other incites her supporters to be bullies, also in service of good priorities. Is either style good enough for America?
To answer that question, let’s consider the types of leaders we admire the most. The list might include Jesus, Martin Luther King, Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. None were bully leaders, and none encouraged their supporters to be bullies. So what did they do that worked so well?
I’ll tell you what.
They described a better version of ourselves and let us find a way to it.
So let’s see how Trump and Clinton compare on that leadership dimension. Are they describing better versions of ourselves?
Clinton’s message is that we are “stronger together.” That’s true, but the message is not about you. It’s about the power of a group. And in this context, unfortunately, the “stronger together” theme has mostly served to embolden Clinton’s supporters to bully Trump supporters because there is safety in numbers. Clinton also talks about her place in history as perhaps the first woman president. But that is more about Clinton, and history, than you.
Clinton does speak out against racism, homophobia, and sexism. That’s positive. But by labeling a large part of the public as “deplorables,” she is describing a worse version of ourselves. I see no invitation to improve in that message.
Trump’s message is “Make America Great Again.” That message does speak to our desire to be better versions of ourselves. But like Clinton, Trump also puts the spotlight on himself more than us. He tells us that he is the best choice to fix things. That’s good, but it isn’t about our better selves. It is about Trump.
In my opinion, Clinton is too far gone with her “deplorables” theme to become a leader who asks us to be better versions of ourselves. But Trump’s messaging is still open to this sort of improvement. And so my citizen request to Trump is this:
You told us who you are.
You told us who Clinton is.
You told us who the press is.
You told us what you want to do as President.
That’s a good start.
Now tell us a better version of ourselves.
We’ll find a way to get there.
And while we’re figuring it out, we’ll help you drain the swamp.
You might like my book because it helps you become better version of yourself.