By Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
One of the most important and critical roles of a leader is to conduct themselves in a disciplined strategic and thoughtful fashion. A leader must communicate consistently and with great thought about the messages he puts out and the timing of those messages. This is as true for the head of a corporation or organization of any size as it is for the President of the United States with such a complex and difficult job. Yet on every front that I can see, President Donald Trump consistently communicates in an irresponsible, often irrational and increasingly dangerous tone.
It isn’t that President Trump tweets that’s the problem, it’s what he tweets. It’s tweeting within moments after the horrific London terrorist attacks attacking Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and intentionally taking the mayor’s comments about people having “nothing to fear” after the attacks when in fact Khan was specifically speaking about the public not fearing a significantly increased security presence. Trump did that to fan the flames and fuel people’s fear. That’s what cynical leaders do!
It’s the same thing he did when he tweeted that somehow the most recent London terrorist attacks could have been avoided by his proposed travel ban against Muslim dominated countries. And in that tweet, in fact, acknowledging what he proposed was a “travel ban”, the president undid and embarrassed official White House media spokespeople like Sean Spicer who consistently insisted that what the president proposed was not a travel ban at all and criticized the media for calling it such.
Undisciplined leaders who speak in such a reckless fashion not only undercut the credibility of those around them but they make it almost impossible to function in their orbit. When Trump further tweeted, criticizing his own justice department for “watering down” his travel ban proposal, think about what he was doing. He went after the exact people he appointed in the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Further, President Trump’s tweets not only are intended to fuel people’s fear, but they’ve made our president, and in turn our country, a laughing stock in Europe. But beyond his tweets, it’s his often narcissistic instincts played out when he pushes a prime minister out of the way as he did on his recent foreign trip in order to be in a better position for a photo op. What kind of legitimate leader does that? What could he possibly have been thinking?
Finally, when President Trump is giving a speech drafted by top advisors including his own Secretary of State which included a critical message to European leaders about standing together in the NATO alliance to fight terrorism post 9/11 – the president simply took it out. He ignored that advice with no strategic consideration as to what doing that would mean to US relations around the world. When Trump tweeted and spoke in an irresponsible fashion as a celebrity, it was one thing, but when he does it as president the stakes are much higher. However, given how clueless he is as a leader and his lack of empathy, self-awareness and strategic thinking, none of this seems to matter to him. Yet, it matters greatly to every American as well as many others around the world.
When I wrote my book “Lessons in Leadership”, when Trump was a candidate, I predicted he would be a terrible, ill-equipped leader if he were ever to be elected president. However, the reality of his leadership as the head of the free world is so much worse and dangerous than I, and many others, could ever imagine. And there are no signs of him changing or getting better any time soon. That’s even scarier.