by Steve Adubato, PhD.
Leadership is a very complex thing. It’s never black and white. It’s not for everyone and definitely not for the faint of heart. I’ve spent many years researching and writing my most recent book, “Lessons in Leadership” and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s easy to criticize someone else in a position of leadership when you’re not the one facing that same situation. So when I think about President Donald Trump’s leadership track record to date, I’m working hard to be fair and trying to imagine how difficult the job of being President really is.
I can’t imagine how difficult the decision was to send those missiles to Syria after the horrific and grossly inhumane chemical attack by the Assad regime on countless innocent people. I’m glad president Trump did something to send a message and many in the media and in America are debating whether what he did was right or wrong. But the leadership question and issues that I take from all this are a bit different.
For years, Trump has been saying America had no business in Syria and that we were probably better off with Assad in charge, all the while knowing (or he should have known) that the Syrian government and military, aided and abetted by Russia and Vladimir Putin (a leader of the worst sort), was systematically killing the Syrian people. You see, the “lesson in leadership” that I’m hoping and praying President Trump learns from all this is that he needs to stop shooting from the hip and tweeting on a whim. He often says whatever comes to mind in that moment devoid of fact, analysis, intel or thoughtfulness. That’s what he did starting in 2013 when it came to Syria. He started tweeting and talking without taking the time to really think through what was going on there and what a leader of the United States and what an important leader in the world would say or potentially do as President about his horrific Syrian situation.
Syria has always been complex, difficult, multi-faceted and not only involved President Assad, a vindictive and ruthless dictator, but also rebel forces including elements of ISIS, and a Russian connection. Syria involves the innocent people of a country who have no ability to fight a regime which has the military at its disposal who could quell any resistance with violence and murder. That’s why tweeting off the cuff and mocking President Obama about the so-called “line in the sand” was easy and anything but strong leadership on the part of Donald Trump.
So the bottom line is that I am glad that President Trump moved swiftly on Syria. I want to believe that Assad got the message and the killing of Syrian people may subside. But who knows if that will happen? Yet the larger issue with President Trump is that he must learn the “lesson in leadership” to be more disciplined and thoughtful and in control of himself when saying things without having any knowledge -whether it’s about Syria, or being wiretapped by a former president, or winning the popular vote (which he never did), or God knows what else.
Being a great leader requires a hell of a lot more than making a stump speech on the campaign trail in front of blind and enthusiastic followers who cheer you when you make salacious statements. Donald Trump is great at that. But being President, being a real leader, that’s a whole different ball game.