As a Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership since Donald Trump's inauguration I have been frequently asked how he is doing from a leadership perspective. Here are my thoughts. My judgment is not made from a political standpoint but from a purely leadership perspective based on his actions and how they effect the successful implementation of his vision. As with any leader in a new role he should grow and develop into it developing his capability and performance with time. So I will be rating him monthly going forward. This is my rating on the first week :
The criteria used are those appropriate for “strategic leaders” running large organisations with complex structures which Trump says he has been very successful at in the past. The scores a very simple – from 1 : not good – must try harder to 10 : an example of perfection everyone should learn from.
VISION – Has a clear vision that is communicated effectively
You might not agree with it but the Vision – Make America Great Again – in clear, simple and has been comprehensively communicated ; 8/10
STRATEGY – Has a clear strategy to make the vision reality based on the most effective plan possible derived from identification of areas for action which optimise return on investment based on evidence, analysis and consultation with subject matter experts.
The vision is underpinned by a number of key strategic objectives – reduce the risk of terrorist attacks within USA. These are clear and frequently communicated. However the implementation plans seem to be driven more by emotionally driven statements rather than analysis of the best solution, eg building the wall to control illegal immigration from Mexico. Add to that use of Executive Orders where the subsequent issues suggest ineffective consultation on viability of strategy has occurred with those implementing and it all seems a little “ad hoc”. 4/10
DELIVERY – Has ensured an effective operational plan exist to implement the strategy or checked that such plans are feasible.
The desire to be seen to act as quickly as possible has inevitably made detailed implementation planning almost impossible. This balance between visible and rapid action and planning by new leaders where they think a turnaround is required is difficult. However Trump seems to have gone too fast to allow the “organisation” time to plan or optimise implementation with obvious consequences. In addition there appears to be a belief in “gut reaction” not data analysis especially where the data doesn’t provide the answer required – then “alternative facts” come into play which in reality make things worse. 4/10
ENGAGEMENT – Has ensured all those engaged in the delivery are engaged with and committed to its implementation
Clearly his team are engaged and committed but as for Senate and Congress that is to be seen, plus of course the wider Government where some senior resignations from the State Department and dissent by others might suggest some significant disengagement. 4/10
TRUST, TRANSPARENCY AND INTEGRITY – Builds trust with individuals and wider stakeholders through being open, honest and transparent in all activities and demonstrating integrity.
Clearly trusted by his supporters even if this is more an emotional than rational driver however that’s not everyone he needs on board to deliver success for the long term. Elements of behaviour, eg tax returns, business dealings etc, suggest a desire not to be transparent for whatever reason. Reluctance to be honest with data which contradicts the messages is a political norm but refusal to disclose it is not, eg labor figures. There is consistent insistence that everything is running perfectly when the reality tells another story that suggests either a lack of feedback systems or a denial of reality for whatever reason. This then calls into question his integrity with “non-believers” who see a contradiction between statements and reality. They will trust less with every similar incident of lack of transparency. In particular denying you said something when it was recorded and can be played back doesn’t help in this area. 3/10
RISK MANAGEMENT – Has taken steps to ensure mitigation of operational risk before implementation of actions.
The first week suggests that being seen to act is more important to him than basic risk management. This response to previous administrations who took years to act aligns with his key messages but moving as fast as he did without any risk management will have its consequences, as the immigration issues indicate. Little or no consultation with those having to implement is increasing risk. 2/10
CHALLENGE & INNOVATION – Challenges the status quo to enable innovation to develop better performance .
Definitely challenges the status quo but the process by which the status quo is updated and replaced is key. There is no point changing one “disaster” for another one due to ill thought through action.Unless of course rather than improving the system you actually want to cause it to fail and replace it in the ensuing chaos. 6/10
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT – Takes time to ensure that all stakeholders, even people who are not in initial agreement with your actions, are engaged in the delivery of the vision by building agreement, consensus and collaboration. Seeks a win / win outcome.
Clearly he is not bothered by having a significant constituency who is opposed to what he says and indeed he seems to relish confrontation. Happy to get rid of people who do not agree with him other than in small details rather than big picture. Not prepared to vary plans for others generally. Does not seem to have realised that the role of President rather than self made CEO requires significant stakeholder engagement to get the greatest impact long term and in the end intimidation will fail. 2/10
COLLABORATIVE CULTURE – Builds a “WE not ME” culture where it is about the team delivering success together and not the leaders own profile. Listens to the views of others , shows humility.
“We not me” is not the way Trump has got where he has. Total focus on himself as the source of success, total belief in his own abilities, constant desire to show he is better than anyone else is or ever has been. Some might see this as narcissistic if not slightly psychopathic. However he is merely magnifying the behaviour he sees as having delivered previous success in his own business. But as President that behaviour can be counter productive as we have seen and a distraction from what he wants to deliver, and likely to hit the checks and balances of the system, eg courts. If he has the self awareness to see he needs to adapt to a new “we not me” behaviour it will add significantly to his chances of success. The argument that his “believers” and critics are too far apart to be brought together is false, it’s possible but he can only do it via a fundamental change in behaviour. 2/10
LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT – Encourages feedback even from critics so is able to learn from this and events to develop understanding of how to perform better in future
Doesn’t seem to be someone who easily takes feedback or information that does not align to current thinking. Does seem to be someone that takes on information that reinforces current views even if it could be “alternative facts”. So yes open to new ideas but only those that he likes and which align to his view of the world. 3/10
The first week got off to a flying start, Trump as the “disruptor” he likes to be, but rapid action doesn’t always deliver success if not fully thought through and too much distruption too fast causes chaos, unless that’s the real plan. Trump is exhibiting predictable behaviour of a CEO who has built up their own business, focused it on their own personal brand and taken tight control of activities. These individuals often take all key decisions, remove those who do agree with them and believe that the organisation cannot exist without them. They lead it as long as possible, never wanting to relinquish ownership, even to family, until forced. Trumps own book suggests he likes to take a win / lose approach, sow division amongst those competing against him or who disagree with him. He thrives on a divide and rule approach and picks “fights” or takes unpredictable actions to disrupt and keep people guessing to reaffirm his control. This approach is now being used in the Presidency as he probably believes that it will deliver success there. This strategy might have worked in his business dealings but is not what the most effective CEOs do nor is it likely to deliver success as a President.Thus the outcome of first week was a predictable application of the Trump CEO approach to the role of President. Rapid action and rapid fallout, but that fallout, as expected, has been written off as unfounded negativity from non “believers”.
To be fair anyone just appointed in a new role isn’t going to be perfect so I would not have expected any individual to be likely to get over 50/100 so soon and even Nelson Mandela, by his own admission, would not have deserved 100. Mandela, unlike Trump, admitted many faults – but then again that humility just made him a better leader.
It will be interesting to see if Trump is able to grow and develop into his role or if the self focused CEO is too deeply embedded for him to adapt to being President before his negative behaviour outweighs the positive past a point of no return.
If you are interested in how you measure up to proven success criteria for operational leaders then try my 15 min “complete leader” survey CLICK HERE
Here are my thoughts on the business impact of the immigration restrictions on BBC World Business - CLICK HERE