A Word on Leadership

Watching President [sic] Trump bungle and screw up everything he does, it sometimes boggles my mind that anyone considers him a leader in any sense of the word. I mean, his job title at the moment has been called “the leader of the free world” and other such things, but it is obvious that he has no leadership capability whatsoever. He is ignorant, petty, defensive, confusing, hostile, secretive, dishonest, greedy, and apathetic. Yet some people say he is a great leader.

It reminds me of how Christians are able to call a book “the good book”, and their god “all loving”, while plainly described as a petty, jealous, vindictive, misogynistic, genocidal, and homophobic asshole. I suppose if you find that character “good”, you may be able to find Trump is a “leader.”

But let’s break this down.

Leadership qualities are the characteristics of a leader that create cohesive, highly functioning teams. A person that exhibits such qualities during the day-to-day administration of their duties are more successful than those that don’t. This is because the art of leadership involves the team. If the team isn’t all working on the same goal, or on the same timeline, or with a clear understanding of the point of their individual jobs, then failure is more likely. However, if a leader is able to get the team working cohesively, success is highly likely.

Good leadership qualities facilitate cohesive teamwork. Among such qualities are integrity, confidence, humility, passion, emapthy, good communication, empowerment of subordinates, accountability, goal oriented, courage, transparency, patience, the ability to influence others, resilience, charisma, and honesty. (Not a complete nor exhaustive list) Now, this isn’t meant to be a leadership class, so I’m not going to break out the power point. However, it is necessary to get a refresher on leadership before we circle back to my original point.

Good leaders are trusted, which is why people are willing to work for them and believe in them when given direction. Trust is built upon experience. Trusted leaders follow through on their word. If they are unable to make a promise, they promise to revisit the issue at an agreed upon parameter. Good leaders are trusted because they take ownership of the team, including taking the blame when the team fails. Good leaders believe that if their team fails, it is their fault for not providing proper leadership.

Good leaders are good communicators, which involves a whole separate body of skills. Before communicating, a good communicator requires knowledge of the subject, collection of data or information, thoughtful consideration of the matter including how each subordinate will support the job, consideration of contingencies, logistics, and coordination, and an explanation of the decision and any future decisions yet to be made. Then the good communicator, with the confidence of a well thought out plan, communicates the plan to the team. Every member of the team understands the overall goal, their part in achieving the goal, and all the details required for them to do their job.

Good leaders are able to make people work as a team. Teams are not always formal, after all. But this is no problem for a good leader. The good leader is able to lean on their knowledge, honesty in explaining the situation, charisma, influence, and even their enthusiasm to influence people to work toward a goal. Team members with such leadership buy in to the plan and become willing, thinking, problem solving team members.

Good leaders don’t always succeed. But good leaders deal with failure in ways that turn it into future or even contemporary success. This requires owning the failure, evaluating what caused the failure without pointing fingers, restructuring the team, and re-influencing the team (or new team) to work together again.

Leadership models are the method by which the leadership qualities are applied. It’s the “style” by which leaders do their business. The style can be determined by the personality of the leader, or the situation in which the leader is operating. These models include laissez-faire, autocratic, participative, situational, transactional, transformational, and strategic leadership. (Also not a complete or exhaustive list)

I’m not going to explain each model, especially since I added a link to a good article on the matter, but I think it is suffice to say that each model has a lot to do with who has authority to make decisions and when, how much oversight the leader participates in, how much communication is or isn’t established between the leader and the team, how many rules or regulations are in place and what they regulate, and what the leader uses as a motivational tool. No leader has to be locked into a specific leadership style, as different teams under different circumstances may necessitate a different style. However, every leader tends to lead in their own way as is evident when team dynamics change when the leadership changes.

It should also be noted that some leadership styles suck. Leaders that don’t solicit input from the team are bound to fail just as leaders that micromanage every single action are bound to fail. There is a definite line between verifying and micromanaging that good leaders know to avoid. On the other hand, leaders that are so hands-off that they have no idea what their team is up to aren’t leading, they are wasting space. It is this balance between controlling the work but letting the team deliver that is the art of leadership. A hard science it is not.

Just because leadership isn’t a science, however, doesn’t mean bad leadership behavior is difficult to spot. The results really are the barometer. Good teams let the work speak for itself. Bad teams are constantly making excuses why they were unable to achieve the result. Good teams foster loyal teammates. Bad teams churn internally with division and personnel turnover. Good teams overcome challenges with vigor. Bad teams constantly look defeated. Good teams are resilient. Bad teams flounder.

Nothing I said so far is controversial. This is fairly leadership 101 stuff. This is the kind of stuff that every military leader, every corporate manager, every crew leader is taught. Real leadership classes would expand on these topics and provide leaders with specific tools or maybe a certain slogan or something, but the foundations remain the same. So why is it that people think Donald Trump is a good leader?

I don’t say that Donald Trump is a bad leader for any other reason than he is, in fact, a bad leader. Every president of the US, except maybe Washington, faced loud criticisms and harsh words and even threats. They handled it by being cool, decisive, and with their leadership. Some were better leaders than others, but they had at least SOME leadership qualities. Trump has none. In the face of being fact-checked, he claimed he is receiving treatment worse than Lincoln. History reminder here, Lincoln was shot dead. Trump had someone say “that’s not actually true.” Trump not only doesn’t know squat about history, he whines in the face of criticism instead of leads.

Trump has no honesty or integrity. He lies dozens of times every day. He lies about insignificant things like where his father was born or how big a crowd was, and he lies about important things like who pays tariffs, what the Paris Accord says, to what the Mueller report says, to how important a global pandemic is, to the status of his vanity project- “wall.” Nobody actually believes what Trump says anymore. Even his die-hard fans have taken to flippantly rejecting his more stupid statements as “taken out of context”, or “as a joke”. It is neither. It is poor leadership.

Just imagine working for someone that loudly exclaims a policy change one day, only to do a complete reversal mere days later. Staffs work hard on such projects. You don’t just magically make things happen, so anything the leader says is important is going to get a thorough staffing. These staffers spend time and money researching requirements, researching constraints, making contacts with applicable authorities, paying money for stuff or space or research, and gaming various plans to develop a best course of action. This takes a lot of work and coordination. But Trump doesn’t understand that. He speaks, things happen. It might as well be magic for him. And it shows, since he is willing to just flippantly make up policy, and just as flippantly toss it out for another policy. He has no moral or ideological principles to guide him, only crazy ideas and padding his own pocket. Leaders like this lose team members and get negative results.

And speaking of which, he definitely can’t keep a team together. He has gone through more cabinet members than any first term president in a century. And even worse, a lot of his advisors or associates end up either in prison or talking about how horrible it is to work for this guy. And of course there are CONSTANT leaks coming out, including the famous “I am part of the resistance” OpEd. Your team is having a major leadership problem if someone is anonymously telling everyone that the leader has issues. And I’d like to point something out, the anonymous author (the NY Times knows the person’s identity) has the same POLITICS as Trump, but still is able to identify his total lack of leadership skills. Basically, he is saying Trump is a useful idiot.

There are two kinds of people in Trump’s universe. 1) People that agree with him, and 2) Total nasty people. It’s no wonder only the yes-men are left standing. And no, I don’t mean only the loyal people are left standing, I mean the yes-men. Trump has thrown loyal people under the bus for disagreeing with him, including his attorneys, impeachment witnesses, basically the entire FBI, and former advisors. If you weren’t a yes-man when you started working for Trump, you either are now or you’re gone. If you think this is an atmosphere that generates empowerment of subordinates, you’re stupid or a Trump supporter. Oh, wait, that was redundant. I already said stupid.

You can’t learn from your mistakes if you refuse to admit mistakes were made. But this is the very essence of Trump’s style, which is to pretend it was “perfect” and blame someone else. If it weren’t real I wouldn’t believe it, but Trump is actually blaming Obama for his failure to prepare and manage the Covid-19 pandemic response.

Yes, Trump is blaming Obama for not correctly managing a disease that didn’t exist when he was President. You heard that correctly.

Not only is that stupid on it’s face, but the Obama administration literally gave the Trump administration the “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents“. Yes, they literally gave them THE PLAYBOOK on how to deal with something like Covid-19! What is more, the Obama administration led the Trump administration through an exercise designed to train them on global pandemic response. Trump fired participants for insubordination. Apparently, learning from the past is being insubordinate to Trump. Did Trump admit these mistakes when asked? Nope. He claimed the response was perfect. But again, the proof is in the results. Equipment shortages were caused by bungling in the administration, states were forced to bid against each other which made supplies both scarce and expensive, and 114,000 plus American’s have died. And now because of this massive failure, the Trump administration’s stated “plan” is to abdicate all responsibility and make the states figure it out by themselves. This is not leadership, this is abject failure.

And of course, as of late we have cities on fire in the US. Protests are massive in every state and major city. How has Trump lead the nation during this troubling time? He hasn’t. The only thing he has actually done so far is to teargas peaceful citizens so he could hold up a book he never read for a photo-op. Then he lied about using teargas. You don’t have to believe me, his former Defense Secretary James Mattis made it pretty clear: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.

His staff are constantly confused by his odd ramblings, late night tweets, and stump speeches. Senators try to interpret his insane ramblings as coherent policy. His supporters are constantly making excuses for his erratic behavior and stupid statements. At every step, abject failure of leadership is assumed to be part of some greater plan or, laughably, 3D chess.

Sounds more like a religion.

The Spartan Atheist

8 thoughts on “A Word on Leadership

  1. My 78 year old neighbor sums up Trump for me pretty well: “Trump? Dat guy’s a sissy ‘n a sum’bitch!” Couldn’t agree more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trump wants to take credit for anything that HE considers “good.” Anything that falls outside that parameter is someone else’s fault. Preferably Obama, but if not, then any other person that comes to mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. chris schilling June 26, 2020 — 10:34 pm

    “His supporters are constantly making excuses for his erratic behaviour and stupid statements.”

    Reminds me of the film ‘Downfall’, where Hitler goes on these extended tirades, ranting and raving, and the Nazis just stand around like a bunch of stooges, looking on sheepishly. (No wonder there’s a whole series of YouTube parodies of those rage scenes, just as there is now with Trump).

    No-one has the balls to call these bozos out. Sometimes you just have to say “shit” to madmen, no matter how dire the consequences.

    Liked by 2 people

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