READ THIS ONLY IF YOU WANT TO MAKE HISTORY AS A BUSINESS LEADER

 

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Today times are different and making history as a business leader, calls for a distinctively different approach. The long-held dictum that if you do what is expected of you, you will do well, is no longer the sure path to history-making success as a leader.

We are not even 20 years into the 21st century and there have been more changes in business orthodoxy than occurred during the entire 20th century. The American economic system (if not the whole world) has been at war with itself. The world of accepted business mores and the time-honored requirements for making history as a business leader has been hit with the unannounced suddenness of a 9.2 earthquake. This tremor of transformation shook the traditional concepts of business and leadership to the core, and the resultant tsunami of change washed away all that had been customary and comfortable.

The game is different now; meaning that for individuals to make history as successful leaders in this environment, they are going to have to be different too. The conventional concepts of leadership skills are not going to be enough to make business history. The history making leaders of tomorrow will be those who employ new theories and altered skill-sets.

The business world is filled with thousands of well-intended, dedicated individuals working diligently to meet the standards and apply the accepted techniques of successful leadership. That is good, but it will not be enough to stand out and make history as a leader in these new times. If you want to be the one making history, you first have to come to grips with the understanding that it is no longer enough to simply follow the rules and lead like everyone else. Instead, history will be made by those willing to take a different approach than other hard-working individuals trying to achieve success.

Believe it or not, it is possible – and not all that difficult – to absorb what has been learned in the past regarding leadership requirements and then take it just one step further. Being willing to go the extra mile is what will distinguish the average leader from the exceptional one.

Traditionally, success came from doing the right things that were required to be done. Individuals seeking leadership roles were admonished to follow the rules, be ethical, do what others have done and go along to get along. That has always been the formula for success. However, to distinguish oneself as a leader who will make their own brand of history, it will require taking actions that are not required to be done. It is a different philosophy of leadership that embodies the notion that leaders should do more than is required to be done and instead focus on what should and can be done.

As just one example of what could be many, consider that everyone accepts that it is the right thing to treat employees fairly. Employees should be paid fair wages, provided with good working conditions and know clearly what is expected of them. This approach was fine for the last century, but if a leader wants to make history in this century they should do more. It’s not required by the old ways of doing things, but if employees are treated with respect for the talent they have and are rewarded for the value they add to the effort, they will be encouraged to do more and help the leader achieve success. It is not tradition, but if employees are empowered by allowing them to influence decisions and make a difference, they will take ownership, not only of their jobs, but will be motivated to help the leader make history.

It seems too simple to make a real difference, but this leadership attitude of doing more than is required to be done is what it will take in today’s changed environment to empower a leader to make history. And just remember: If you’re not making history, you are history.

Trump Wants To Lose!

EPA/DANNY LAWSON

EPA/DANNY LAWSON

There is no doubt that Trump is going to lose the election and lose badly. Trump’s campaign is in disarray and his staff has had more turnover than a pancake restaurant. As a result, Trump may suffer the worst Republican electoral defeat since Barry Goldwater was decimated by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 election. This means that Hilary Clinton, for all her faults, failures, fabrications and feigned populism, will become the next president of the United States; and the status quo will win again. The person who seems least concerned about this outcome of the election is Donald Trump, because he clearly does not want to win the presidency. In Trump’s mind, come what may in the election, he is already the big winner. The only way he loses is if he has to serve as president.

When Trump announced his candidacy it was apparent that his action was another masterful marketing ploy, not to actually win the nomination, but rather to generate publicity for the Trump brand. Not a single political pundit took either his campaign or his chances of winning the nomination seriously. Even Trump put his chances of winning the nomination at “less than 10 percent.” But a confluence of circumstances came together to produce the highly unlikely result of a Trump Republican nomination. No one was more surprised by this result than Donald Trump.

Trump’s nomination was really more about media than politics. After all, Trump’s political history is more in sync with the Democrats than the Republicans. From a media perspective, the other 16 Republican candidates were, for the most part, aligned along the narrow channel of base Republican philosophies that made it difficult to discern one candidate’s positions from another. In addition, none of them had the personality or flair to stand up and stand out from the crowd. This was a problem for the media because to drive ratings they needed a story to tell and a controversy to report on. Donald Trump fit the bill perfectly and the media jumped at the opportunity to make him the story.

During the primary elections Trump received, mostly fawning, wall-to-wall free media coverage worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The Trump media coverage was like a tsunami that washed away the 16 other Republican candidates; none of whom had the media charisma to stand toe-to-toe with Trump. (To be fair, in the same search for ratings, the media latched on to Bernie Sanders in a way that allowed him to be competitive with the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, all the way to the very end of the campaign.)

For Trump Winning is Losing

If you want to be charitable, you could argue that Trump is trailing badly in the campaign because – being a novice to elective politics – he does not know what it takes to win a presidential campaign. It is as if Trump presented the renderings for constructing a grand golf resort and then upon receiving approval to build it, he fails to hire the contractors, sub-contractors and workers who will actually construct the resort. Trump would never do that in his real estate development business, but since he received the nomination, that is exactly the approach he has taken toward winning the presidency.  

When you take into account an electorate that is deeply frustrated and distrustful of the status quo and combine that with the fact that the Democratic nominee is the poster-child of the status quo and that she has the lowest “likeability and trust” ratings in presidential election history, the election should be a cakewalk. But when you look at the way Trump is conducting the campaign, you have to wonder if he really does want to win.

Instead of focusing on the need for change and making the campaign about Clinton and her obvious liabilities, Trump has wasted time on extraneous issues and has overacted to every personal attack. This has allowed the Democrats to hide the weaknesses and the ethical controversies of Clinton’s past; enabling the Democrats to deflect the focus of the campaign away from needed change and on to Trump. This is a losing formula for Trump, but he has only himself and his thin-skinned outsized ego to blame for allowing this to happen.

Why Would Trump Want the Job?

Politicians like Hillary Clinton spend a lifetime chasing the Holy Grail of politics, the presidency. For the ambitious professional politician, every waking moment, thought and action is focused on the goal of becoming president. That attitude is shown in the fact that virtually every person previously elected president had a long history of involvement in government and politics.

Trump is different. Trump has spent his life seeking deals, pining for publicity (chasing women) and making money. For Trump, running for president was not the culmination of a lifelong political pursuit, but an ego trip and an opportunity to further the Trump “brand.” Actually winning the nomination was not part of Trump’s plan and now that he has it, he is doing his best to make sure things go no further.

Besides, why would Trump even want the job? Trump is a 70 year old wealthy white guy who has the freedom to live his life as he wants. What does he have to gain by giving all that up for the life-consuming, high pressure 24/7 stress of being president? Why would he want to give up his freedom to do and say what he wants, for the confinement of the Oval Office? It is one thing for a life-long politician who lives for nothing else to give up everything to be president, but for Trump, while being president may be the ultimate ego trip, he has apparently decided that even that is not enough to give up everything else.        

The truth is that Trump has won all he wants to win. Trump actually wins more by losing. Without the burden, pressures and limitations of being president, Trump will be free to make his deals, leverage his brand, play golf, make even more money and still and have a major influence in public policy. Nothing could be better or more fitting for Trump. And that is why we see Trump acting as if he does not want to win the election, because he doesn’t want to win.

Trump is a Marketing Genius, But Would be a Failure as President

PTTrump

 

Donald Trump can rightly be criticized for deficiencies in a lot of areas, but everyone agrees that he is a virtuoso marketing genius. There has been no marketing force the likes of Donald Trump on the American scene since P.T. Barnum.  As evidenced by the fact that he is known to carry a picture of P.T. Barnum in his wallet, Trump takes the comparison as a compliment. Indeed, there are haunting parallels between the public lives of Trump and Barnum.

Starting in his early 20’s P.T. Barnum (1810 – 1891) built his career as an entrepreneur, showman, author and Republican politician (after years as a Democrat). Barnum served as a member of the Connecticut legislature and as mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut, he also ran unsuccessfully for Congress. However, P.T. Barnum’s real fame came when he moved to New York and became an unabashed entrepreneur and marketeering showman. He created a new form of entertainment which was in essence a “traveling reality show” (of course named after himself) called “Barnum’s Grand Scientific and Musical Theater.” Barnum primarily sold himself, but he even made money by organizing beauty pageants, flower and dog shows.

P.T. Barnum was considered a master of marketing, due to his innovative and creative ideas promoting himself and his latest venture, even though, at times, he was accused of being deceptive and blatant truth twisting. P.T. had the ability to draw patrons into his shows by giving them a glimpse of something they had never heard or seen before. His response to criticism of hyperbole was to say he simply indulged in the truth, but made it seem more appealing. He defended his exaggerated statements as simply “advertisements” to draw attention to what he was selling.

P.T. Barnum also became an author, with such best-selling books as Struggles and Triumphs and The Art of Money-Getting. What a coincidence that Trump became an author with books such as The Art of the Comeback and The Art of the Deal. Not to forget Trumps ever popular treatise Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.  

Until the arrival of Donald Trump, America had not seen such a successful self-promoter as P.T. Barnum. But even P.T. Barnum didn’t have the ego to attempt to promote his way into the presidency. He knew what he was and described himself as “I am a showman by profession and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me.” He admitted that his personal aim was “to put money in his own coffers.”  

If P.T. Barnum were alive today, he would most certainly tip his hat to Donald Trump for elevating pure self-promoting marketing (hucksterism) to the very cusp of the presidency.  

Trump has the right idea but the wrong approach

The truth is that politics is all about marketing. The voter needs to “buy” the candidate. The problem for most politicians is that while they may be good at governing (which is what they want to do), most are totally deficient when it comes to marketing. That’s why you see politicians rushing to hire advertising, public relations and marketing companies to market their candidacy. Trump is just the opposite. He is a maven of marketing who can sell almost anything — especially himself — but he has no clue how to effectively govern; at least under the American system of government.

Trump has a proven record as a successful entrepreneur and corporate CEO, but the structure of business empowers the leader to rule by edict and command; and that is exactly Trump’s style. However, our constitution structures the government in such a way as to thwart the rise of a ruler who seeks to govern by edict and command. Unlike business, where power is top-down, the U.S. government is designed to have power move from the bottom-up. Additionally, power is diffused among three co-equal branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – that is intended to serve as a check-and-balance against the usurpation of power by any individual.

Trump, in fact, has made it the core of his campaign to attack all three branches of the government; portraying them as inefficient, incompetent, intransigent and has individually called out and denigrated the leaders of every branch. Not to mention that Trump has consciously alienated the leaders of his own Republican Party.

The irony is that the criticism Trump levels at the government and the Republican Party is, for the most part, true. And most voters (especially Republicans) agree with the criticisms of “the establishment” thrown out by Trump. By taking this approach Trump demonstrated his remarkable marketing ability to “sell” himself to disenchanted voters as a savior who can make “Make America Great Again.” Trump, like his role model P.T. Barnum, is not afraid to use us exaggeration or twisted truth as part of his marketing strategy. That was evident in Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention when he said, “I am the only one who can fix these problems.”

Given the high odds against Trump securing the Republican nomination when he entered the race, winning the nomination is irrefutable evidence of his marketing genius. The odds against Trump actually being elected president are even higher, but remember the election is about marketing; and it is a mistake to discount the power of marketing.

What if Trump Does Win?

As proficient as Trump is at marketing, he is equally as deficient at governing. Virtually all those who have been elected president spent a lifetime governing. They gained experience at governing by working with, around and through the structure of a government that is intended to resist and reject change. No person has ever been elected president who had not previously worked in government and almost all of them were formerly a state governor, senator or vice-president. The only exception to this rule being those, such as Washington, Grant and Eisenhower, who learned to govern in the military.

Not having the experience of governing would put Trump at a severe disadvantage should he be elected. The Oval Office is not the place to learn to govern. Just as Trump would not put someone in charge of his businesses who has no experience in business, the voters should be concerned about putting someone in charge of the government who has no experience at governing. Especially a government that is structured to thwart the actions of one who believes they are the only one who can make government work.

Trump is an elite marketer, but marketing is not governing and confusing the two is a recipe for failure.