Why have prominent CEOs abandoned our President, Donald Trump, a fellow business person?
As is his wont, President Trump blames them, not himself, for their departures.
Successful leaders recognize Donald Trump is neither a leader nor a businessman. His speech and behavior defy both labels.
General John Kelly, a proven leaders, seems to telegraph this assessment in his facial expression and body language at President Trump’s unhinged press conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday.
Real leaders do not act like Trump.
Leadership in business, the military and politics is meant to provide clarity, to inspire and to unite. The true test of this capacity occurs at times of crisis. At such moments, the first utterances prove the measure of the person in charge.
For this reason, the past two weeks were President Trump’s “moments”: last week, with the threat of World War III and this week, the threat of Civil War II.
For both, especially over the weekend of crisis in Charlottesville, he failed. Miserably. The failure cannot be explained away as “missed opportunity,” which is like arguing you could have passed the two-day bar exam if you had had another few days.
By casting blame on “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, and then circling-back to defend this indefensible utterance, he displayed his incompetence—his moral rootlessness, his megalomania and his constitutional inability to inspire.
Truly successful business people do not act like Trump.
Sitting on one of his advisory panels must have been painful. Leaders of industry surely do not see in the new President someone they would emulate.
For leadership, the prominent business book, Good to Great by Stanford Business School professor Jim Collins, provides metaphoric examples of great leadership: great leaders look out the window when things go well and in the mirror when things go poorly. Bad leaders– non-leaders–do the reverse.
A great leader is someone who does not thrust personal interests ahead of the needs of the company or organization. Instead, she inspires great collective effort and loses herself in service of the larger organizational mission.
By this definition, it is hard to see how President Trump could have been a successful businessman. For anyone who has been a business leader, judging Mr. Trump’s business acumen by the measure of “The Apprentice” (even with its “great ratings”) sounds like comparing a bucket of water to the ocean.
Trump according to Trump has built a “beautiful multi-billion-dollar company.” By now, of course, we can adjust for the effects of self-promotion and marketing hyperbole. We can also take into account the several bankruptcies left, like the Jersey shore after hurricane Sandy, in the aftermath of the beautiful Trump businesses.
Given the paucity of his financial disclosure, perhaps we will never know.
I do not mean to suggest that pre-President, Mr. Trump did not amass a fortune. Self-promoters often do (look at the Kardashians).
Nor do I mean to suggest an absence of business models that can become wildly profitable through bluster, fear, intimidation and the extortion of loyalty (look at the Mafia).
Bad “leaders” must go, and quickly.
As chairman of a corporate board of directors, I once had to fire our company’s CEO. Among other things, the CEO had been caught lying to the board, lying to our shareholders and damaging our brand with customers.
The CEO tried to dodge the facts with bombast and bluster.
Because I supported the CEO’s hiring in the first place, it was not easy to admit error. However, as “you’re fired” left my lips, I knew the welfare of all of our company’s employees and the quality of our brand depended upon this person’s immediate departure.
I would have been satisfied with a resignation.