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  • Writer's pictureDan Berger

Leadership Learnings From The Trump Administration (Three Weeks In)

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

It has been three weeks since President Trump officially took office and so much has happened. Observing him has been a great reminder of basic yet important leadership lessons.

The way you spend your time matters.

People observe what leaders do with their time. That’s why the fact that Trump tweeted 21 minutes after his daily intelligence briefing started — about a completely irrelevant topic — was noticed.

Leaders need to be mindful not just of what they do but of when they do it because it’ll be noticed, parsed, and judged.

The events you attend matter.

When I worked for a Member of Congress, I quickly learned that the one thing people notice more than who attends events is who doesn’t attend them.

Trump attended three inauguration balls compared to the 10 that Obama attended. By not attending certain events, Trump signaled they were not important to him. Similarly, look at the signal sent by the Democrats that boycotted the inauguration or by Hillary who attended.

Leaders must remember that the events they attend send a signal of what’s important to them.

The words you use matter.

When Trump described a judge as “so-called” he didn’t only offend judges but an entire branch of government. It’s amazing how much words matter, especially when they come from a leader.

Leaders need to be aware of the words they choose because people listen and analyze them carefully.

The leadership style you employ matters.

When it comes to leadership, the one thing that’s more important than substance is style. Trump’s abrasive and antagonizing style may have worked negotiating real estate deals but it is not effective in leading a nation. Without the right style even the most popular policies won’t get through.

Leaders need to remember that the style they choose is the vehicle to getting things done.

In fact, it’s a prerequisite because without the right style people won’t even come to the table.

The message you deliver matters.

When Trump went to speak at the CIA on his first day as President, he started by praising the intelligence community but quickly went off message and ranted about the size of his inauguration crowds. Putting aside the fact that he was incorrect, many considered his speech disrespectful and counterproductive to the trip’s intent.

Leaders need to craft their message based on the needs of the audience they address.


Here are a few other leadership lessons I’ve picked up from watching the Administration.

  1. Meeting readouts are an important communication tool for leaders to share what transpired during important meetings that are top-of-mind for everyone. (See the coverage phone calls with foreign leaders get.)

  2. It’s OK for business leaders to take public positions on issues that may be considered political because they impact their employees, communities, and customers. (See the backlash Trump-friendly businesses are getting.)

  3. Leaders need to share important news with influencers before they share them widely to ensure these people feel bought in and listened to (See the debacle of rolling out the travel ban.)

I’d love to hear from you and your leadership observations from the Trump administration thus far.

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