How Trump Embodies The Definition Of A Bad Leader (2022)

President Donald Trump announces a deal to temporarily reopen the government, in the Rose Garden of... [+] the White House, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)


As candidates announce their intention to run for president in 2020, there is no better time for America to take stock, contemplate what constitutes a good leader, evaluate whether our current president embodies that definition and determine who among the candidates exemplifies it. One can not help but notice any time a leadership expert or scholar discusses the characteristics and habits of a good leader in any capacity, it brings the shortcomings of the current president into stark relief. Leadership experts in business and academia have discussed and debated the tenets, values and character of great leaders throughout history, and agree that the best among them possess a handful values and qualities that are imperative to outstanding leadership—and that the current president does not have any of them. Below are a list of integral leadership qualities Trump does not embody:

He Refuses To Accept Criticism

Numerous leadership experts find that one of the most important aspects of good leadership is accepting criticism. Leaders who surround themselves with honest brokers who give candid feedback they listen to make better decisions and are better leaders than the ones who do not. One leader who champions voicing and accepting criticism is Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. He is one of the most respected leaders in the private sector. He built his company based on the philosophy of "radical transparency," a.k.a. voicing criticism. One of the defining principles of Bridgewater's culture is the degree of honest feedback, and Dalio credits Bridgewater's success to it. His employees regularly give him feedback on his performance, and vice versa. He made it part of his company's mission, and in his book, "Principles," he included a memo he wrote to Bridgewater in 1996, where he elaborates on his philosophy on criticism:

Conflict in the pursuit of excellence is a terrific thing There should be no hierarchy based on age or seniority. Power should lie in the reasoning, not the position, of the individual. The best ideas win no matter who they come from. Criticism (by oneself and by others) is an essential ingredient in the improvement process, yet, if handled incorrectly, can be destructive. It should be handled objectively. There should be no hierarchy in the giving and receiving of criticism."

In contrast, one does not need to look farther than Trump's twitter account to see how poorly he handles criticism. Back in February heunleashed a twitter tirade against Cliff Sims, a former aide whose book, Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days In The White House,is a critical account of his time in the administration. The President claims he was inconsequential and that he barely knew him, but he still warranted a response from the President of the United States.

He unleashed a twitter rant against the FBI and CIA, because the intelligence they gathered did not support his positions on Iran and North Korea. It is by far the first time Trump has attacked the U.S. intelligence community and members of his own administration on twitter. Instead of gathering and contemplating more information, and considering the substance of the criticism, he is defensive, bombastic, quick to blame others and punch down with his rash, jeering tweets, and crude, witless insults. He does not exhibit the humility, self-awareness or the sense of humor to accept criticism and better himself.

He Refuses To Evaluate Errors And Changes Course When Presented With New Information

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and the author ofLeadership: In Turbulent Timeswrites about how at the beginning of the Civil War, General McClellan's first offensive humiliatingly failed. The North's morale was low and Lincoln was frustrated. So he went to see the troops, spoke with soldiers and civilians, and determined that he needed to think differently about slavery's role in the war. Though Lincoln loathed slavery, publicly he stated slavery would be contained to established slave states, but never expanded to future territories. But when the soldiers told him how the slaves were cooks and waiters for the Confederate Army, that they dug ditches and continued to farm the plantations while soldiers were away, essentially that slaves enabled the soldiers to fight. Without slaves, fighting would be almost untenable. That feedback caused Lincoln to rethink his political stance on slavery, and helped him understand that in order to end the war he had to abolish it completely.

Trump does not thoroughly evaluate any of his policy decisions outside of what he believes is in his political interest. The foremost example of this is when he pulled out of the Paris Agreement, which endangers not only the country but the world as the impact of climate change continues to escalate in the U.S., with increased wildfires, floods and hurricanes. In October of last year, the U.N. scientific panel released a reportthat found a strong risk of crisis, it "describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040." In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real, and carbon emissions caused by man are partially responsible, that he would reward the financial interests of his political base at the expense of the country and the rest of the world is unconscionable, and just one example of how he serves his political interests above all else, and doesn't change or reconsider his opinions or objectives when all evidence states the contrary.

He Does Not Do What Is Right In The Long Term, He Succumbs To Short Term Pressures

Dr. Martin Luther King ended his partnership with President Lyndon B. Johnson when he spoke out against the Vietnam War in 1967, after passing The Civil Rights Act together in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It was a decision King knew would bring a lot of backlash for him and the civil rights movement, but like he changed the hearts and minds of many Americans in regards to race, he felt an obligation to do the same with the war in Vietnam. Though it was an controversial stance at the time, history proved King was right. When King spoke at the National Leadership Assembly for Peace, he concluded his speech stating, "Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus."

From the early days of his administration, Trump has made incredibly unpopular decisions: the Muslim travel ban, pulling out of the Paris Agreement, unraveling DACA, pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, campaigning to build a wall at the southern border, banning transgender individuals from the military, pulling out of Syria, etc. Trump's decisions and often racist, misogynistic, xenophobic rhetoric have deepened an already stark political divide in the country- not only is he not a molder of consensus, he creates and fuels division. His actions are politically motivated, and are dictated by election cycles and not by a long-term vision or strategy, or the best interest of the country.

He Doesn't Take Care Of His People

Organizational psychologist and Wharton Professor Adam Grant also said in an interview with Katie Couric that one of the things that immediately comes to mind when he thinks of a good leader is caring about employees. He told Couric, "They actually care about their people and put their people first as opposed to, you hear a lot of, 'Well I put my customers first.' The sad thing is that the way you treat your employees actually spills over to effect your customers. So it's pretty hard to run a customer friendly organization if you don't care about your own employees first and foremost."

It would be logical to conclude by reading the news around the chaos and record-setting turnover in this administration that Trump does not care about the people who work for him. Trump is quick to yell, upbraid and hold his staff accountable for his own mistakes. One example was Trump's treatment of his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions. After Sessions recused himself from overseeing the independent counsel's investigation into Russian interference during the election, Trump disparaged him publicly time and time again hoping he would resign because he was incensed Sessions recused himself. He did not have the nerve to fire him, so he kept embarrassing him hoping he would resign. Trump finally asked for Sessions' resignation in November 2018, nearly two years after the special counsel's investigation started. Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigned in response to Trump's plan to pull troops out of Syria and his treatment of U.S. allies, and Trump initially thanked him for his service, tweeting he had "retired with distinction," but he did not read the resignation letter. When Mattis' resignation letter was released and the media interpreted it as a rebuke of Trump, the president forced him out two months before his stated day of departure. There are countless examples of Trump abusing his staff, and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that his family is not excluded from that.

He Has No Empathy

Doris Kearns Goodwin also discusses empathy inLeadership In Turbulent Timesand how Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt all had it, and needed it to face the significant challenges they all faced during their respective presidencies. Kearns Goodwin writes that Lincoln and Johnson were born with is because they grew up poor, but that the Roosevelts had to acquire it in adulthood as they formed friendships outside their social class, and learn it through their life experiences.

Trump's lack of empathy is on full display, most especially after the death of Senator John McCain, who he taunted for being a POW during the Vietnam War during the presidential campaign and continues to taunt, jeer and disparage monthsafter his death from a malignant brain tumor. Trump lashes out at McCain randomly, for everything from his class placement at the Naval Academy to voting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act though he has passed. Trump has also championed the family separation policy at the border(though he now denies that, and insists it was an existing policy) and only rescinded it under enormous pressure from both political parties. His inability to understand other perspectives and appreciate the experiences and expertise of others made him a poor businessman and it makes him a bad leader and president.

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