By Steve Adubato, PhD
Finally…they said it wouldn’t happen. He said he wouldn’t do it. When I wrote about Donald Trump in my newly released book, Lessons in Leadership, I predicted he wouldn’t do it. But just yesterday he came pretty damn close. What did Trump do?
Well, he didn’t actually fully apologize for the very specific, degrading, sophomoric and mean-spirited things he has said for over a year, but he did say this: “Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”
So, for Trump, this is as big a “mea culpa” as you are ever going to get. For me, as student and teacher of leadership and simple human decency, I say Trump should have apologized to the New York Times reporter with the physical handicap for mocking him in public. I say Trump should have apologized specifically and directly to FOX News anchor, Megyn Kelly, for making reference to her menstrual cycle. I say specifically and directly Trump should have apologized to respected Judge Gonzalo Curiel when he said the judge shouldn’t preside over the Trump University case because his parents were “Mexican.” And yes, Trump should have specifically and directly apologized for mocking Carly Fiorina’s face and many times telling supporters at rallies to “beat the hell out” of those who were protesting.
But I guess saying he “regrets” some of the things, is more than I ever expected from a guy who has wrongly convinced himself that a REAL leader doesn’t apologize. And if he or she does, it’s only done when you have no other alternatives because you’re getting the crap beat out of you in an election, or you’ve been boxed into a corner. This is one thing that Donald Trump clearly has in common with his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who only apologized on the email debacle when she had no other choice. But, Trump’s problems are much larger on this issue because it goes to his temperament and lack of, what Dr. Daniel Goleman calls, “emotional intelligence.” It simply goes to his maturity and ability to understand that real leaders have to listen to the feedback around them and show a degree of humility - not just because they have no other choice, but rather because it’s the right thing to do. These are many of the things I said about Donald Trump in my new book Lessons in Leadership. Again, Trump and Hillary Clinton bear many of the same traits in this regard. But for Trump, his appear to be on full display and clearly working against him in a way that I’m sure he never imagined when he got into this race.
So here’s the biggest “lesson in leadership” for you reading right now: when you screw up, own it. No excuses, no finger pointing, no blaming the media or anyone else for taking your words out of context. You did it, you said it, and you’re responsible. Admit it fast. Do it clean, and get it behind you. If Donald Trump had done this and learned this powerful lesson a long time ago, he may not be getting trounced right now by a seriously flawed opponent just a couple weeks before Labor Day.
Finally, how will Trump’s quasi “apology” play moving forward? I’m not sure, but he’s playing big-time catch up - sort of like the Yankees this year trying to get into the playoffs. They are simply way behind. So is Trump. But as the late, great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”