A Report Card on Leadership for Trump

What can loosely be called the Trump leadership team has careened wildly over the last few months.  The last campaign directors, Lewendowski and Manafort, have been ingloriously deposed.  Steve Bannon, an Alt-Right, fire-breathing dirty trickster, has been newly appointed.  Ivanka and husband, Jared Kushner, from ‘behind the scenes,’ are said to be the real leadership.  But everyone concedes that it is Trump, himself, who calls the shots, while those who try to advise—or contain—him generally fall by the wayside.

Donald Trump has been measured on many grounds as a candidate and person, but I have seen remarkably little on how well he would lead a complex organization.  I believe that the United States government fits that designation.  Based on what we have seen so far, I have drawn up a report card.  It is built on the key skills, knowledge, and temperamental qualities that such experts as Jim Collins, John Kotter, the team of Kouzes and Posner have developed. At the risk of immodesty, I’ve also taken a page out of my own writing, Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations.


                                                Trump Leadership Report Card

Leadership Qualities Trump Performance  Grade
Create a shared vision of the future.  This is a picture of the future that excites others and motivates them to work on behalf of that vision. Trump has succeeded in mobilizing the anger and yearnings of people wanting relief from lives that seem less than they should be, but he has not shared a positive and convincing vision of what will lead to that relief unless you think that “Believe me” and “I’ll make it happen” can be considered a vision.  Nonetheless, while it may not be pretty, Trump has begun to create a vision. B
Create a viable and believable roadmap.  The map shows how you are going to realize the future vision thus making the vision seem believable. If you consider walls ‘extreme vetting,’ pulling out of long term alliances (such as NATO) and trade treaties, considering nuclear warfare, and forsaking climate control a roadmap, and then Trump has succeeded. But it is not at all clear how these would lead to prosperity for the working classes, his core constituency, and safety for our nation. C-
Hire the right people for the right positions.  This means people who are skilled, creative, and knowledgeable, doing the jobs that best suit their capabilities.  They are the next level organizational leaders, who should be smarter in their area of expertise than the overall leader. As far as I can see, Trump has shown no capacity whatsoever in hiring effective people.  Even Republicans are aghast at the low quality of his campaign organization.


Support and position your executive team in order to maximize their capacity to lead within their domains and in the organization as a whole. It appears that Trump systematically undermines virtually everyone who works for him.


Delegate and hold accountable. In order to enable a well-chosen staff, you need to give them broad swaths of responsibility and trust that they will find a way to do the job.  You won’t have the time, energy, or skill to do everyone’s job.  Once they are well on their way and your trust is building, you still have to hold them accountable.  Everyone must be held accountable for achieving goals—including the leader. Generally, Trump seems to delegate to no one, acting as though he can do it all himself.  When he does delegate, he does so in fits and starts, giving and pulling back responsibility almost randomly, and in the process driving employees crazy.  The only accountability he seems to exercise is by firing people.  He doesn’t train, educate or encourage them, nor praise them for good results.  In his mind, he is the sole source of good results.He certainly wants all the credit. F
Create an enabling culture, one that rewards both optimal individual effort and collaboration. Programs in complex organizations cross departmental boundaries and require collaboration to succeed. As far as commentators can see, the culture of the Trump campaign is chaotic and critical, keeping virtually everyone off balance, in spite of the efforts of Ivanka and Jared to calm things down. F
Create a learning environmentBuilding and sustaining organizational success depends on learning from what you have done well and what you have done poorly, on amplifying the former and correcting the latter.  Without the ability to learn, you stagnate or “crash and burn.” The Trump political organization has heeded no one’s advice.  There are no sustained course corrections.  Trump, himself, ignores advice, as though it would take over his personality, like an underworld demon. Trump seems to disdain learning.  After initially touting his University of Pennsylvania Wharton School pedigree, he has mainly made fun of “experts” and knowledge. F
Model exemplary values and behavior.  If you demand that others work hard, you must too.  If you need people to collaborate and to put organizational goals ahead of individual success, you must too.  If you think that treating one another well is not only ethical but leads to organizational success, then you must do it.  If you believe that people must always be learning, then you need to become the organization’s Chief Learning Officer, demonstrating over and again your capacity to change and grow. What’s to say?  Trump has been mean, defensive, narcissistic, self-referential, and bounded. —the opposite of a team player. Has served as a model for angry people who, instead of building something, find and lash out at one “enemy” after another.  We can only hope that few people take him as a guide. F

The United States government is a complex beast, with many interlocking parts, hopefully working in some form of coordination.  There is no way that anyone can run it as a one man show.  Even if you are able to set the national agenda and tone, inspiring the masses to back you, you need to manage the vast machinery of government to realize your goals.  That is not something Donald Trump is capable of doing.

In case you are wondering, I’d be willing to bet that these grades also hold for Trump’s real estate and branding companies.  They are not sustainable.  It appears that he drains them of every cent for himself, gets rid of people and properties when challenged, and destroys companies as fast as he creates them.    This, then is the potential model for Donald Trump as President.