What We Can Learn from Donald Trump What Attracts Us to Leaders
As I have followed the latest US presidential campaign, I have given some thought to the phenomenon of Donald Trump. Almost no one predicted he would still maintain the lead with the other GOP candidates. Many dismiss him as bombastic, ruthless, crude, and offensive. Some call him an intellectual lightweight. But as a student of leadership, I ask, “Why then are so many drawn to him?”
Most pundits say it’s because he taps into the anger and frustration of the Republican electorate. I don’t think it’s that simple. In this article, I will not argue for or against Mr. Trump as a presidential candidate. Rather, I want to share what makes him attractive to others as a leader—and you and I can learn from that.
When I was in Iowa a few weeks ago for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride, I saw a local person wearing a T-shirt that said, “Have you heard about joke of the day?” And under that were the words, “Donald Trump.” But to this point 25% of Republicans disagree. They think of the 17 candidates, he is their guy. And even though Trump is a bit shocking, here is why I think they will choose him.
He Gets Things Done
We can talk, theorize, and plan all day long, but getting things done is a different matter. People follow leaders who make things happen. How effective are you and I in this area? As citizens, we see that the national debt is $18 trillion—and rising—with no plan to balance the budget. We see an immigration system that is grossly flawed. We see our middle class eroding with over 50 million people on food stamps. And we see our national leaders squabble over these issues…talk about it, work on it, or try.
But that’s not what people want from their leaders. We deserve more than leaders who simply squabble, talk about it, or try. We want leaders who get things done. The hard things. It is yet to be seen in the political arena, but I think many people perceive Mr. Trump to be the kind of person who gets things done.
Question for our leadership: Do you get things done, or just work, talk, and try?
He Is Courageous
Mr. Trump seems gutsy, not afraid to take risks. He just goes for it. He is more than just another billionaire. I don’t think his money makes him bold, but rather how he procured it. He made his fortune by being courageous. And we are attracted to leaders who are brave, those who are not afraid to take risks for the mission at hand.
Most politicians want to play it safe, always careful to please everyone so they can secure votes. But it makes them more timid to make decisions that may risk their personal wellbeing or career. I believe at this point in our nation’s journey, many people sense danger. So they are opting for a more courageous leader, even one who may be a little rough around the edges.
Question for our leadership: How gutsy are you? What can you do to be more bold?
He Speaks the Truth
Mr. Trump is not afraid to speak the truth as he sees it. So many leaders are committed to be politically correct, smooth and polished. They seem to cover the truth with so many layers of niceties that after a while even they don’t know what the real truth is. People follow leaders who have the guts to say it how it is; someone who gives their frustrations a voice, and a strong voice at that.
Question for our leadership: Do you have the blodness to say it as it is when needed?
He Tackles Our Biggest Challenges
Again this is yet to be seen, but should he be elected, I think many people believe he will tackle our biggest issues. From immigration to campaign finance reform, and all the struggles which dog us as a nation, Mr. Trump seems to be unafraid to take these on. Whether you believe in his solutions or not, people are drawn to leaders who determine to resolve our biggest challenges.
Question for our leadership: Are we tackling the hardest challenges of those we lead, or simply skimming the surface, just working the periphery?
He Confronts Our Greatest Adversaries
Mr. Trump is not afraid to look someone in the eye and confront them. He is not afraid of a show down. And yes I know he is perceived as a bully by some. But maybe that’s what we want in a leader, someone who is able to push back other bullies? Maybe that’s what the electorate are looking for, a leader who can stand up to China, Russia, and Iran. A leader who will go toe-to-toe with Congress to move things forward. Regardless of your political position on these issues, we all want leaders who are unafraid of our enemies. We want leaders who have the gutspa to stand up for us.
Question for our leadership: Are we willing to stand up to those who threaten our values and the people we lead?
Next Step: Reflect on these five areas of leadership to assess in which you may need to grow.
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