Ironic really, that on 9/11 the improbable happened–Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America. The result has left the world reeling. How did this man come from joke to reality? What leadership lessons can we learn from his election?
Ultimately leadership boils down to just two things: Vision and trust. Whether you agree with him or not, you cannot deny that Trump sold a vision:
“Let’s make America great again.”
Trump’s vision tapped into the hearts and minds of the average American, who, as a result of globalisation, had been left behind by progress. Unemployed, struggling to make ends meet, the average American was looking for someone to blame, and Trump gave it to them; he put words around their anger. His vision gave them hope.
What sets a leader apart from a manager is their ability to cast an enticing vision for the future. They are able to paint a compelling picture that people want to believe in. A great leader can imagine something different, something better, something that compels people to put in the extra effort to make a reality.
Hilter, like Trump, successfully painted a vision, but sadly, painted the vision on the failings of others. Both sold their visions not by celebrating the great achievements to date, but on the failings of their predecessors. They both identified who was to blame for the people’s predicament. “If elected I’m going to build a wall and I’m going to tear up the free trade agreements. I’ll get your jobs back.” The seeds of the vision they sold was anger, it was grown out of fear and when in full bloom, will generate hate.
The world has changed, and is changing at a rapid pace. Manufacturing jobs, no matter how high a tariff Trump puts on imports, aren’t coming back. Robotics and AI will make certain of that. The vision that Trump, and all our national leaders should be selling is one that recognises and acknowledges the good that has gone before, justifies the need for transformation, and is built on genuine hope for all peoples of our planet. Visions that are sold on the basis of fear and promulgate hate are never destined for success.
The question we are all asking now that Trump has been elected is, “can we trust him?” People will only be propelled towards the attainment of a vision if they trust their leader. Can Trump deliver on his vision and, “make America great again?” Will people put in the extra effort because they know it will create something better for everyone, or will Trump have resort to promulgating greater fear and hate to achieve his goals?