Donald Trump likely isn't open to coaching, mainly because of his ego. But he is coachable. Here are the lessons I believe Donald Trump needs to learn before he can be an effective and successful leader.
In a previous blog post I outlined three key strengths that Donald Trump possesses. But I also said that you can have too much of a good thing. So, while it’s true that Donald Trump can appeal to the masses with his plain speak, words matter and the man has loose lips. While it’s true that he is very driven and can overcome obstacles, sometimes obstacles should not be overcome. And while it’s true that he is keeping traditional allies and enemies on their toes, Donald’s allowing his ego to make important decisions. What Donald Trump, and the rest of the world for that matter, really needs is the best dang executive coach the universe has to offer. Okay, I’ll take one for the team because I believe that everyone is coachable. Yes, even Donald Trump. Is he ready/open to coaching…I'm going to go with NO, mainly because of ego! But if he learns these lessons, his non-supporters might, just might, stop threatening to move to Canada.
Donald Trump said during the election that he has “the best words.” While he doesn’t seem to have an extensive vocabulary to say the least, he does have the best words in the sense that he speaks plainly and simply. This allowed him to appeal to the average working class American - the American population that is so vast it was enough to win him the presidency. Using basic language made him very relatable. Even though he is an alleged multi-billionaire, many Americans believed he understood their everyday struggles of trying to make ends meet. He was able to convince people that he is not the elite when, in reality, Barack Obama understands the average American’s plight far better than Donald Trump, who grew up in a life of privilege. But all of that doesn’t matter because the way Trump speaks…speaks to the average American.
The Lesson: Trump needs to learn that words matter. As the POTUS, you can no longer go off the rails making off the cuff comments. Well, you can but you shouldn’t. Flippant, reactive statements that Mr. Trump doesn’t truly believe but are said for effect and impact now carry greater consequences that affect an entire nation. When we choose our words big or small, few or many, we need to be very conscious of our intention. Why are we choosing these words? What are we trying to create? And, as a leader, we need to anticipate the response of our audience. The speaker is responsible for the wake that the words create. It is not okay to speak hate and then claim it is just how people heard the words. As a leader, it is our responsibility to ensure that people understand what we are saying. And if people don't understand us, we must examine what we missed and where we were unclear. Good leaders do not put the onus on the audience to understand, they put the onus on themselves to effectively communicate. In leadership we need to be just as accountable for our words as our actions.
When Donald Trump wants to accomplish something he focuses on the end goal. He doesn’t think about how he is going to get there, he just forges ahead. We saw this in the primaries and in the presidential election. This drive allows him to obliterate any obstacles in his path and achieve success, which is a great trait for a leader to have…to a point. Donald Trump’s problem seems to be that his success isn’t always sustainable. Having never met the man, I’m hazarding a guess that this is because his value system is lacking. Articulating his value system beyond “I like to win” and “I like to be noticed” would stand him in very good stead.
The Lesson: Donald Trump needs to get connected to his value system and the lines that he won’t cross, bigly. (Now, before you say it, let me say that, yes, I do believe that he has a value system. Do I think he’s in deep conscious touch with that value system? No, I don’t.) As men and women rise to power we start to focus on the objectives and we lose sight of our own value system and what lines we will or won’t cross as we search for success. So, my hope is that Mr. Trump does have people around him that will enable him with a sense of awareness. I’m not confident that he has surrounded himself with those people but, as I say to all leaders and aspiring leaders, one of the top three things you need to ensure long-time success is a contrarian - someone close to you who will tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. This is one of the major roles an executive coach plays, and Mr. Trump, I will be that person for you…free of charge. Call me.
Donald Trump is keeping both traditional allies and enemies on their toes by not disclosing how he is going to handle certain relationships. He has definitely created an environment where what we have always believed is now being challenged. That is a very good thing in the proper context. When we challenge the notion of, “this is the way we always do it,” we are open to innovation and creativity. I believe Mr. Trump is reassessing certain relationships and not following the status quo. Can this be dangerous? Absolutely. But it also opens us up to possibility and opportunity.
The Lesson: Don't lead with ego. I get it, we all have one, but the Donald’s is out of control. Uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing, but an unchecked ego? Warning, warning warning! When we make decisions from ego - basing our decisions on what people will think of us, what we are afraid of, what we are avoiding and what we are trying to prove - bad things can happen. When we make decisions based on what are we trying to create and who we are in service to, amazing things can happen. And unfortunately Donald is following a path many leaders succumb to: because I am in power, people are in service to me. When, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Leadership is about service but, contrary to popular belief, it is about being in service to others. Not yourself and certainly not your ego. If this lesson isn’t learned, the consequences will not be as minimal as Trump University stick handling lawsuits. This lesson not learned has the potential to bankrupt an entire nation. [insert scary face emoji here]
There is a possibility that The Donald isn't going to learn these lessons and this could be a very tumultuous presidential term. But, even if he doesn’t, there is something we can do. We might not be able to control his late-night tweets or his name calling. We can’t force him to see that his ego is keeping him from attending important and valuable briefings…but we can look at our own leadership. We can put ourselves under the microscope (before someone else does) and decide, if we were to declare ourselves coachable, which areas would we like to progress or evolve? We can improve our own leadership skills to help shape the world we want to live in.