Leadership tips from Donald J. Trump
President Trump is the author of many of the most successful business books of all time, from The Art of the Deal to ... um ... those other ones. And with his presidency spooling out before us like an endless rainbow of winning, there's much that leaders of any organization, company, or family can learn about how to make their enterprise function like the "fine-tuned machine" that is the Trump administration.
Perhaps someday Trump will sit down to write a book detailing his leadership secrets, offering up another trove of penetrating insight and inspiring prose. Until then, here are some tips we can glean from watching Trump's unrivaled performance as president.
1. Force your underlings to praise you in public. This will make them feel like honored parts of the team! It's a technique Trump often employs, whether it's a Cabinet meeting or a get-together with a group of religious leaders. He'll call on them one at a time, knowing that they'll all feel compelled to give him the hosannas he's looking for. Most recently he did it on his trip to Puerto Rico, when he asked the island's representative to Congress if she'd repeat for the cameras earlier comments she had made complimenting the administration's efforts. After she thanked him, he said, "Well, I want to thank you because you were really generous. And I saw those comments, and everybody saw those comments, and we really appreciate it."
2. Publicly denigrate the work of your staff, just so they don't forget who's boss. Trump has done this with multiple aides, most recently Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. After a story was published about Tillerson seeking to open communication channels with North Korea, Trump tweeted, "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man." True, within a couple of days a story emerged that Tillerson had called Trump a "f-ing moron" in a room full of people, but that led to a press conference in which Tillerson, speaking like he was recording a hostage video, reiterated just how awesome Trump is. Winning!
3. Encourage high turnover. While Tillerson is keeping his job (for now), a remarkable number of senior aides in the administration have resigned or been fired. Michael Flynn, Stephen Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Katie Walsh, Anthony Scaramucci, Tom Price — the list goes on and on, and will only get longer. That encourages the staff who remain to work hard and stay on their toes.
4. The most competent employees can be found in your own family. Just look at Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. Who else in America could simultaneously reorganize government, solve the opioid crisis, and achieve Middle East peace? And conveniently, when troubling information about your family members emerges — like a story revealing that two of your kids were about to be indicted for scamming buyers of condos at one of your developments, until your lawyer intervened — nobody will suggest that they should be fired, because it's not like you're going to fire your own kin.
5. When people for whom you're responsible suffer unexpected hardship, take the opportunity to insult them. Sure, you're going to help out. But before you do, let them know that it's a pain in the butt, as Trump did when he told survivors of Hurricane Maria, "I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack." Before he got there, he tweeted that Puerto Ricans "want everything to be done for them." When you put people in their place like that, it makes them appreciate the generosity you're showing toward them.
6. Encourage people to find the silver lining. In Puerto Rico, Trump told hurricane victims that they were lucky they didn't suffer "a real catastrophe" like Hurricane Katrina. And he said of the murder of 59 people and the wounding of hundreds more in Las Vegas, "What happened is, in many ways, a miracle," because "how quickly the police department was able to get in was really very much of a miracle." Okay, so it actually took police over an hour to reach the shooter, by which time he had already killed himself. But at a time of tragedy, everyone appreciates hearing someone tell them it could have been worse.
7. The public trust is permission to live large. When others look at you, they should be inspired to succeed in their own lives. The way to help them do that is by showing that you're getting yours, hand over fist. The public will be more than happy to pay for dozens of trips to your golf courses, or watch the Secret Service blow through its budget protecting you and your family, because it gives them something to aspire to. And your aides will follow your example, especially when it comes to air travel. Just tell them to keep it within reasonable limits.
8. Absorb criticism with maturity and thoughtfulness, by trying to destroy anyone who criticizes you. When people disagree with your decisions or, even worse, question your leadership, it's a sign that they're sick, dishonest losers who must be crushed without mercy. A good first step is to characterize any such criticism as a pack of lies, or as Trump likes to say, #FakeNews! If you can come up with a rude nickname, all the better. This is the surest way to convince people that you're right and everyone else is wrong.
9. It's all about you. This is the pulsing heartbeat of Donald Trump's leadership style. Never forget that the point of the whole enterprise, whether it's business or government or something else, is you. You're the reason everyone is here. Your personal aggrandizement is the means and the end. As long as you don't ever forget that, success is guaranteed.