Trump Has the Wrong Idea, But the Right Approach

Shaking up the establishment in order to bring about needed change requires more than shrill, self-serving screeching

Think what you will of Donald Trump (and I don’t think much of him), you do have to give him credit for being an out-and-out marketing genius—especially at marketing himself as a stand-alone brand. One of the TV talking heads said it best, “Donald Trump’s job is to be Donald Trump.” As supercilious as Trump’s campaign for president may be, it would be a mistake to compare his real goal with those proffered by the current gaggle of candidates seeking to make a serious effort to be elected president.

With a couple of minor exceptions, those in the pack of Republican candidates are running within the constraints and rules of the establishment; hoping the establishment will push them to the top.Trump-2
Trump is alone in challenging and running against the establishment to achieve his goal. But Donald Trump is not running to be president; he is running to be Donald Trump. Despite that shallow objective, those who seek success by bucking the establishment as agents of change can learn a great deal by observing and yes, emulating some of Trump’s strategies and techniques.

Paths to Success

Understand there are two broad approaches that can be followed in the search for success. One way is to play by the rules of the established system, seeking not to challenge or change it, but to advance oneself by working for the system. The other way to be successful is to effectively challenge the status quo of the establishment in order to change it, so that the system will work for you.

For those who choose to seek success by working within the establishment all that is required is to work hard, follow the rules instituted by others, kiss some ass, keep your head down, go along to get along and wait your turn. Of course, there are risks in this strategy: your success may never materialize. No matter how well you play the establishment card or follow the rules, others will ultimately control your success.

Those who strive for success by becoming a change-agent have to understand that their road will be far bumpier. Challenging the status quo and endeavoring to bring about change will cause those who support the establishment to fight tooth and nail to preserve it. If not ignored or ostracized, the change-agent is vilified, denigrated and disparaged by those who have tied their future to the past. However, there are two benefits for those who endure this storm of resistance in order to follow the path of change to success: success can come quicker and it is determined by the effectiveness of the effort to introduce change, not by the beliefs or decisions of others.

Mapping out Change


Trump definitely sees challenging the establishment as the path to success in his presidential campaign. He clearly recognizes there is no hope for him to be successful playing by the rules of the establishment. He knows that the only way for him to stand out from the mob of minions running for president is not only to challenge the system, but to turn it on its ear. We know Trump is not seriously running for president (He’s not is he?), but his actions – the establishment calls them “frantic antics” – come very close to what is needed to implement real change.

Here’s a checklist to be followed if you want to become a successful change agent.

  • The attack on the status quo must be based on a valid and verifiable weakness that has gone undetected or ignored by the establishment. In short, the criticism of the system and the need for change must be true, because if not, it can be easily discounted and ignored. But if what the change-agent is saying about the establishment is true, then the defenders of the status quo are put in a position of attacking the change-agent, not because what they are saying is wrong, but because they are wrong for saying it. That defense will always fail.
  • Those seeking to be change-agents must have standing within the system. Someone from outside the system can easily be brushed-off and discounted as uninformed. However, when the one challenging the establishment has bona fides as a member of the establishment, it is difficult for the defenders to discount the credibility of the one seeking change.
  • The change-agent must offer a constructive, viable alternative to cure the exposed weakness in the status quo. Anyone can throw out vituperative attacks against a calcified establishment, but for a change-agent to be successful they must present a clear alternative to the status quo that will not only correct the problem, but make the system better.
  • The change-agent must have fortitude, focus and determination to fight through the slings and arrows of those wedded to the establishment and against change. They must be serious about the change they seek. Even with truth, standing and creative workable new ideas, change does not come easily. The last line of defense for the establishment is that if they can’t outwit the change-agent, they may be able to out wait them; in the hope that they will give up and go away.

And Back to the Donald

When the antics of Trump are measured against the four elements necessary to achieve success as a change-agent it is easy to see how, by following a number of these points, he has been successful in his limited objective – creating publicity for Donald Trump. Do you think there would have been anywhere near the level of publicity and media coverage Trump has received if he had joined with the other 15 or so candidates following the established way to run for president?

During the announcement of his candidacy he focused directly on a problem that has vexed the establishment for decades – illegal immigration. The truth in his statement was not that there is anFinalTrumpillegal immigration problem – everyone knew that – but that the establishment had not effectively addressed the problem. But the bombastic nature of his attacks allowed the candidates of the establishment to attack Trump, rather than have to respond to the real problem of immigration.

Evidenced by the blanket media coverage of his announcement, it was clear that Trump had standing to launch his attack on the establishment. While not an establishment politician, Trump is certainly a self-made celebrity and a successful, wealthy businessman. He was just not some guy coming in off the street to attack the establishment, and this forced the establishment candidates off their message, because they had to respond to Trump and his standing.

Trump has offered an alternative to the problem of illegal immigration, but the “solution” proposed is unworkable and boils down to only doing more of what has been done. It does not address the core issues of the problem and would not make the system better. Failing to offer a viable alternative to a problem simply gives the defenders of the establishment the ammunition to attack the would-be change-agent.

Finally, Trump shows no interest in the staying power needed to see change implemented and success achieved. He has offered no long-term strategy or organization to bring about change and has hinted that if the establishment does not agree with him he will just walk away. This simply encourages the establishment to hang on to the status quo and wait for the change-agent to give in.

In the end, you have to give Trump his due. His objective is not really to change the system and become president, but to use the weaknesses and failings of the establishment to promote the Trump brand. He is perceptive enough to understand what it takes to rile-up the establishment and cause it to lash out in defense of the status quo. In doing so it simply gives credibility to Trump and provides him the platform to market his product – Donald Trump. It is too bad that Trump is unwilling to use his understanding of what it takes to be a change-agent to actually bring about real change, instead of squandering it to further inflate his narcissistic ego.

(Donald Trump is not the best example of a positive change-agent, but the path to success as a change-agent is important and can be very constructive, both for the system and the one implementing change. Because of that, next week the blog will continue the discussion with positive examples of change that leads to success.) 

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