CEO Leadership Lessons From Donald J. Trump

CEO Leadership Lessons From Donald J. TrumpLet’s talk about leadership rather than politics. There are very serious lessons for senior leaders to learn from our 45th president, particularly CEOs. 

From the perspective of many people, and yours may be different, Donald Trump seems more than willing to sacrifice democracy to assuage his ego. Of course, you say, I’d never do that. However, on several occasions I’ve seen CEOs willing to risk the company for their benefit. What does this look like? Here are a few examples:

Nepotism. This is a good place to start. Your shareholders don’t want you to hire “yes” men and women. They want you to hire the best person for the job — one who’ll disagree with you and speak the truth as well as do very good work. They don’t want you to fire everyone with a different perspective. They want you to ask, “What about this is true?”

Extraordinary pecuniary rewards. The CEOs I work with are good people; they work very hard and contend with a great measure of stress. They deserve to make a good deal of money. Some, however, cross the line and view the company as their personal piggy bank. If you wouldn’t want your mother to know your rewards, perhaps you’ve gone too far. (This one creeps up on you, so be careful!) By the way, this applies to sharing the spotlight as well as monetary rewards. Even if you own the company outright, if you have caviar taste and treat your people like rented mules, your day in court is coming.

Leading, not dictating. Leading isn’t always about controlling. You probably aren’t the smartest person in the room, and even if you are, it isn’t in the company’s best interest to make all the decisions or overrule anyone on a whim. When you do, you end up with a bunch of sycophants and a weak team. Who wants to work for a jerk like that? 

Unwilling to admit mistakes or defeat. You can’t win them all, but I guess you can pretend you do. Once again, who wants to work for someone like that?! It doesn’t have to be a presidential election, but it might be your company strategy or a flawed executive whom you hired. One of a senior leader’s challenges is that people want you to be strong in your convictions, but they also respect honesty and vulnerability. If you believe that covering up mistakes and refusing to admit when you’re wrong are positive leadership actions, try it at home and see how it works. 

You may have a different perspective than I do on our 45th president, and I’m fine with that. However, if you’re a senior leader, I suspect we can agree that you’ll be much more effective over your career if you hire the right people and listen to them, share the rewards, lead collaboratively and admit your mistakes.

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