Trump U #2 – Searching for Lessons for US and us

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I last wrote about President Trump in light of the work of Kouzes & Posner.  I was searching for what seems to guide the “way” that he models, the values that he talks and walks.  And I wrote about what WE can learn from what he is or isn’t doing.  I’ll try to be more succinct than last time and raise 4 quick points to focus on my and your everyday leading.  (1) Kouzes’ reply to my last post.  (2) Theresa May’s statement the day after the terrorist attack on London Bridge. (3) What these mean for us in our everyday lives and (4) In our political lives as U.S. citizens (and to my international friends/readers, like commenter Phil from the UK, hopefully relevant to your lives as well).

I called my last blog to Jim Kouzes’ attention and he shared his thoughts.  His full response is copied at the bottom. For brevity here is his core response to the question about how President Trump was “modeling the way” (which I had inferred, fairly I hope, as fighting” and being for “America first.”).  Kouzes’ replied:

Remember the old saying that “If you turn around and no one is following you, you’re not leading; you’re just out for a stroll.” The practice of Model the Way is not solely about Doing What You Say You Will Do (DWYSYWD), but also Doing What We Say We Will Do (DWWSWWD)…”Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.” Emphasis here on “shared values.” That then leads to the question, “Whose shared values are we talking about?” For those who share Donald Trump’s values, they may consider him to be an exemplary leader. For those who don’t share those values, most likely the opposite would be true. One must ask, then, who is (or who should be) Donald Trump’s constituency? Is he the President of the United States, or is he just President of Those Who Agree with Donald Trump?… Before you can answer the question, “Is this person an exemplary leader?” first you must answer the question, “Who are the constituents that person is leading?” Then you must ask, “What are the shared values of that constituency?”

I want to come back to Jim’s commentary after sharing what Theresa May said, at the end of very brief remarks she made, standing before 10 Downing Street, the day after the vicious attacks at London Bridge:

[There is] far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult conversations and often embarrassing conversations. But the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism.  And we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom.  We must come together. We must pull together. And united we will take on and defeat our enemies.

Two things are striking about Prime Minister May’s statement. First, that she is emphatically speaking to, and of a vision for, all of the UK. It could be that in my left-leaning bubble I just don’t hear this inclusive message coming from President Trump. Admittedly, there are an increasing number who are set against him, so it’s not hard to see how he could feel he is in a bunker and must attack (and he is a fighter).  But attack whom?  To Kouzes’ point and with May’s example, our elected leader could surely do more to reach out to others.

Two final points: In family, office, community exemplary leaders, widen the net, generate a shared vision and shared values. That means if she’s running the firm, she doesn’t speak to the litigators over the business lawyers, the men over the women (or vice versa) the straight over gay (or cis-gendered, as the young people are teaching us, over those who are trans).  Building shared values and vision doesn’t happen by itself and doesn’t happen top-down, but authority figures have a lot of power to include and to share. I consider myself so lucky to listen to young people a lot, and I encourage my oldie-but-goodie readers to go out and actively listen to the expansiveness of these Millennials! They are real teachers of shared and sharing vision and values!

The last point concerns our political, everyday leadership.  Trump has profoundly alienated progressives. And Hillary (and judging from reader Nancy’s comment last week Obama, too) have alienated the right.  We so need shared political leadership. I hope Republicans like Senator Burr will continue to steer away from tribal partisanship and steer to the center of the law and constitution.  And I hope Democrats like Senator Feinstein will continue to ask the Comey’s or Lynch’s of the world the really hard questions that have to do with law and constitution and not partisanship and division. But it is not just politicians who have become divided and dysfunctional. Almost all of us have. We’re getting what we’ve asked for and what we deserve.

And it is SO up to us, to U.S, to everyday leaders on which democracy depends.  If we don’t learn to keep listening then we will stay tribal. We will make our neighbors feel like excluded and misunderstood and victimized “others,” just as we make Republican, Democrats or Muslims or Blacks or rich people “other.”  We can blame it on the politicians, but we’re not children and this is not – however convenient it is to complain that it is – a dictatorship or tyranny.  It’s a representative democracy that depends on us to insist on electing leaders who will listen to other points of view and for US/us to model the way of building a shared vision and shared values in stressful times. Sharing is not a one-way street, as children learn in kindergarten or pre-school. Sharing requires patience, trust, and generosity sometimes . . . to

Lead with your best self!

 

Full blog comment from Jim Kouzes, co-author of The Leadership Challenge:

When deciding whether any leader is exemplary—as you will recall, we refer to our model as The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®—one must consider who the “constituents” are, or at least who is observing and assessing the leader’s behavior. Remember the old saying that “If you turn around and no one is following you, you’re not leading; you’re just out for a stroll.” The practice of Model the Way is not solely about Doing What You Say You Will Do (DWYSYWD), but also Doing What We Say We Will Do (DWWSWWD). As we write in The Leadership Challenge, our second of the Ten Commitments of Exemplary Leadership, is “Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.” Emphasis here on “shared values.” That then leads to the question, “Whose shared values are we talking about?” For those who share Donald Trump’s values, they may consider him to be an exemplary leader. For those who don’t share those values, most likely the opposite would be true. One must ask, then, who is (or who should be) Donald Trump’s constituency? Is he the President of the United States, or is he just President of Those Who Agree with Donald Trump? This is fundamental to deciding if Donald Trump, or anyone, is an exemplary leader. Before you can answer the question, “Is this person an exemplary leader?”, first you must answer the question, “Who are the constituents that person is leading?” Then you must ask, “What are the shared values of that constituency?” Here’s something else we know: The more frequently leaders demonstrate The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, the more engaged their constituents are and the higher performing their organizations are.