Quote Of The Day

“Breaking News! Trump elected President!”  That was the last echo of truth Americans heard before the sound vanished.    -Me


Post#: 303-19 – Words: 2342 – Audio: N/A

Leadership is not an impulse activity.


Recently former Trump Chief-of-Staff, John Kelly said in an interview that he advised Trump not to hire a “yes man” replacement or else he (Trump) would get impeached.  That statement suggested far more than the face value of simple advice.  Kelly implied that the President was so incompetent that he needed to be reigned in; that Trump didn’t know how to control his impulses and desire to have all the power and control.  The White House snapped back, per CNN, President Trump denied that Kelly ever made that statement,

“He never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does,” he added.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also criticized Kelly in a statement to CNN.

“I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President, she said.

Then there was that recent Republican storming of the Capitol’s SCIF room during a deposition.  “Leader” of the action, Congressman Matt Gaetz, was euphoric over the action, comparing it to the movie “300” about the 300 Greek Spartans.  As he was leaving the scene a reporter caught Gaetz in the hall.  Asked if Trump told him to do it, Gaetz replied, grinning from ear-to-ear,

“No, I haven’t chatted with the president about it, though I suspect he might have a view he might want to share after today. … I love the president so much I may never love another president.

To some measure we’ve all experienced some form of Trump supporter who believes so solidly in Trump’s mere existence that it’s no wonder to the truth that Trump proclaimed he could go kill someone out on Sixth Avenue and people would still love him.  Where exactly does all this blind obsession for Trump come from, and more importantly, why?  For myself, I have never had such a loyal affinity to ANY politician, much less a President, even if I voted for them and thought they were good for the country.  In fact, I have never worshiped a single human individual as much as some of these Trump supporters worship him… even my own parents (as respect, moral commitment, and devoted love does not necessarily equal “loyal worship”).

In our current political divide the Right likes to assign Trump Derangement Syndrome as a legitimate affliction suffered by anyone vehemently not supporting Trump (like myself), there’s also the other opposing “affliction”… Trump Infatuation Syndrome.  Described here from Urban Dictionary…

Trump Infatuation Syndrome

Trump Infatuation Syndrome (TIS) is a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their infatuation of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reasoning.

Symptoms for this condition can be very diverse, ranging from sudden outbursts screaming MAGA, to a complete mental break. TIS can also often result in the sufferer exhibiting sexist/racially motivated violent outbreaks, homicidal, or even genocidal desires.

Paranoia is also a common symptom of TIS. Sufferers have been known to believe that they are in some way being persecuted through a deep state shadow government. This does not change their admiration for narcissistic authoritarian leaders and their repudiation for any check against the abuse of power.

If properly treated, suffers of TIS can make a full recovery. Treatment includes a reduction or complete elimination of Fox News, an understanding of science and reasoning, and talking to minority members of society.

Well, faux (or not) medical diagnosis aside, whether TDS or TIS, there actually have been studies done on this concept of why people follow certain leadership styles.. and not just spawned since Trump entered the picture.  For the most part many of these studies were done in the last early to mid century to evaluate dictators, and later in researching the Nixon experience.  There are two elements in attempting to understand leadership styles as they relate to politics… the leader and those who follow the leader.  While most of us will never become a leader with the power of a President, we all can pretty much identify various leadership styles from activities in our normal lives… like working for a boss, being a boss, or something as simple as serving as a chairperson of some church group or committee.  Quite often a “good” leader will be the one who can lead others to reach a goal, more as a facilitator than a hands-on leader.  A military mission to take an objective requires more a team effort, focusing on directing the talents of others, using a measure of strategic experience that others willingly will follow out of respect and confidence.

 

Management Styles: Business World vs. Politics

In fact, most people do prefer.. or more to the point… opt to support, certain kinds of leadership styles in the real world.  On top of that, many times what determines the style to follow, or support, is also dependent on personal needs.  In other words, is this person who wants to lead me going to make my life easier in some form?  A secondary reason might be, is this person who wants to lead me going to make decisions, good or bad, that in the end benefit me personally (and by “bad” I mean making the decisions no one else wants to make, so-called “tough-love” or even life & death).  Obviously all this depends on conditions and events at the time.  During war time we may want a Churchill or a Patton type to lead us.  During peacetime we may want a more moderate, compromising leadership style like a Jimmy Carter.

Recalling back to my college days taking various management courses the textbook lists of leadership styles were usually the following…

  1. Democratic Leadership
  2. Autocratic Leadership
  3. Laissez-Faire Leadership
  4. Strategic Leadership
  5. Transformational Leadership
  6. Transactional Leadership
  7. Coach-Style Leadership
  8. Bureaucratic Leadership

Since we’ve all had past experience working for jerk bosses and very good bosses we all have a basic understanding of what boss-traits we individually prefer to follow.  Rather than get into the deeper definitions of the elements on the above list, we can preface that there can be very successful bosses.. leaders… in pretty much any of those categories.  But largely that depends on specific goals and objectives to be met, how labor intensive vs. the length of time vs. just getting the job done as requested from the boss’s boss.

Political leaders are a bit different.  The idea of “leadership” is an oft used descriptive applied to anyone elected to public office.  After all, to even get elected means you had to have made some effort to make yourself stand out from the crowd, present your ideas and causes, and present the path you will use to obtain your objectives.  Doing that alone tends to suggest people elected to public office are endeavoring to find supporters who like their ideas and therefore are willing to allow you to act as their leader in completing your objectives for all.  Political leaders are not bosses (except to their own hired staff) and have no direct rank-in-file command function in voters lives.  So political leadership tends to take the form of a personal charisma; people like what they see and hear and agree to allow their support to go to that person.

 

Two Perfect Contemporary Examples…

…exist of the political effects of personal charisma gaining supporters.  Obama and Trump.  Both most certainly had a charisma to secure a voting base that got them elected as President.  Yet both personas are as diametrically opposed in their political “leadership” styles as they could possible be.  Obama was more a transitional style, with cultural and global interactions, the “Yes, we can!” campaign slogan displayed an optimism in which faith, hope, and a vision for the future was possible.  Trump.. no question has an authoritative and authoritarian style.  Focused on delivering his campaign promises, promising he could fix everything and anything… and centered around his own bravado in being able to deliver what the country needs, according to him.  Hope, faith, and a future vision was communicated not from moral focus but a domestic demographic entitlement that fits more the isolationist agenda.  Point being, for as caustic and behaviorally repulsive Trump has been to many voters, he has been more than attractive to those voters finding a measure of strength and assertiveness to stand up for what he wants, as it’s what they want; his methods be damned as long as he accomplishes his agenda.   He also carries a Right Wing segment of voters who have felt left out for decades.

 

Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism

In an op-ed at Justia, (HERE) former Nixon Counsel John Dean and retired psychology professor Bob Altemeyer write that to understand  leadership types with presidents, that use of existing research to understand authoritarians would help in our understanding of Trump.. and the people his style attracts.

“Trump is America’s first authoritarian president since Richard Nixon. Unlike Trump, Nixon was largely able to hide his authoritarianism from public view, and this characteristic was only later revealed on his secret recordings of his White House conversations. Trump’s authoritarianism is conspicuous. Although some commentators have noted his “autocratic” and “authoritarian” style, they have not taken the next step to understand what that means or to examine the half-century of study devoted to understanding why someone like Trump was elected and is tolerated by the Republican Party and other supporters, notwithstanding his undemocratic behavior.”

Political scientists define “authoritarianism” as a “…form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms.”  While I am not specifically suggesting Trump wants to knowingly impose this as a new form of government in the U.S., his methods, his style, suggests a slant toward this kind of leadership… a leadership method he has acquired over the years; nature vs. nurture, and whatever he felt comfortable with in his business dealings.

Wiki cites…. (HERE)

“In a democracy, a legislature is intended to represent the diversity of interests among citizens, whereas authoritarians use legislatures to signal their own restraint towards other elites, as well as to monitor other elites who pose a challenge to the regime.”

“Authoritarians may resort to measures referred to as ‘coup-proofing’ – structures that make it hard for any small group to seize power. These coup-proofing strategies may include the strategic placing of family, ethnic, and religious groups in the military; creation of an armed force parallel to the regular military; and development of multiple internal security agencies with overlapping jurisdiction that constantly monitor one another.”

In an influential 1964 work, the political scientist Juan Linz defined authoritarianism as possessing four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, realized with constraints on the legislature, political parties, and interest groups;
  2. Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion, and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat “easily recognizable societal problems, such as underdevelopment, and insurgency”;
  3. Minimal political mobilization and suppression of anti-regime activities;
  4. Ill-defined executive powers, often vague and shifting, which extends the power of the executive.

Authoritarianism is a close cousin to totalitarianism.  An interesting chart is presented below by Paul C. Sondrol of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  He has examined the characteristics of authoritarian and totalitarian dictators back in 2009 and organized them in a chart:

Totalitarianism Authoritarianism
Charisma High Low
Role conception Leader as function Leader as individual
Ends of power Public Private
Corruption Low High
Official ideology Yes No
Limited pluralism No Yes
Legitimacy Yes No

It’s interesting to see the traits of Trump being exhibited on the “authoritarianism” side.

 

And All This Means What Regarding His Supporters?

Humans remain all different and come naturally in multiple varieties, hence we all have different perceptions and opinions.  After nearly 240+ years of “presidential” presidents one popped on the stage that indeed found an affectionate number of supporters who represented a “sick & tired” of the conventionality and seemingly slow and cumbersome process of Congressional action and what many have perceived is a corrupt government run by big business, wealthy interest groups, and a system flawed by greed, power, and excess.  Democracy itself as practiced in D.C. is flawed, hence the popular cry for a “return” to the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers.  It matters little if those perceptions are right or wrong.. as the fact remains, enough jumped on that bandwagon in the last election to put Trump as President.  In a way, to many, Trump is a kind of messiah, and what he has been doing for the last three years.. specifically ignoring presidential traditions and behaviors, discrediting institutions as being part of some swamp that needs draining of the elites… and simply thumbing the world defiantly… has all been welcome to his supporters.  The grandest victory seems to be his supporters relishing in the daily upheaval in the Liberal press toward Trump’s daily behavior.  When Trump is accused of abusing or flat out defying the Constitution his supporters see it as he’s defying a Liberal interpretation of the Constitution, and not the “true” Constitution as defined by the Founding Fathers.  He never lies but he is always taken out of context.

In the end Trump’s authoritarian “leadership” style might have been ok, had his approach been tempered with some experience in politics.  But he has lacked the required political acumen needed for engaging and winning political battles.  He simply does what he wants, has no interest in the controls provided by the Constitution, challenges everything in the courts, and says (Tweets) whatever he wants.  These things will be his downfall.

Very likely the “best” President is the one that can engage a management style to meet the situation as it arises; be fluid and adaptive, and not centering on one style.


Update:

The following is a recent op-ed on CNN from Chris Cillizza that rather shines a little more light on what makes folks follow someone like Trump.  I’ve included the article in its entirety. (also HERE)

October 31, 2019

During Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump’s campaign launched a seven-figure national ad buy — a 30-second commercial touting his first-term accomplishments on terrorism, the economy and immigration.

But the real key to the ad — and the bit that you need to pay very close attention to — comes in the final moments of the commercial, when the narrator says this:

“He’s no Mr. Nice Guy. But sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.”
Those two sentences are hugely telling when it comes to understanding how Trump (and his campaign) are going to position him in the race for a second term next November.
What’s clear from that tag line — “no Mr. Nice Guy … sometimes you need a Donald Trump” — is that the campaign understands how poorly the President is perceived on a bevy of personality traits. He’s not seen as friendly. Or kind. Or empathetic. Or even really, someone you’d want to spend a bunch of time around.
This ad tries to turn those traits on their head. Rather than being regarded as a negative for Trump, his campaign is trying to argue that in order to fix a place as broken as Washington, you need someone who doesn’t care about whether you like him. Or whether anyone likes him. Who only cares about results.
In a bumper sticker, the campaign messaging that this ad appears to preview goes like this: Yes, he’s a jerk. But he’s a jerk who gets results!
The underlying argument here is that for too long, voters elected presidential-looking and sounding politicians. People who played nice with one another, who gave predictable speeches, who went to all the Washington dinners and made friends with the media. And look where that got us! It screwed the average Joe, while these so-called elites feathered their nests.
Trump’s lack of manners, his bullying, his at-times outrageous and dangerous rhetoric are, under this formulation, simply proof points of how different he is than all of the failed politicians who have come before him. Democrats don’t like him? Even some Republicans don’t? The media is outraged? Good! They should be — that’s the whole point.
There’s at least some reason to believe that sort of positioning could work for Trump. The 2016 exit poll tells that story. Just 1 in 3 voters said that Trump “honest” and “trustworthy”. (He won 1 in 5 voters who said he wasn’t honest or trustworthy.) About that same number — 35% — said Trump had the “temperament” to be president. (He won 1 in 5 voters who said he didn’t have the right temperament to be president.)
In virtually every previous election, those are numbers that guarantee a loss. After all, how does a candidate that two-thirds of the country thinks isn’t honest and doesn’t have the right temperament to be president win? That answer — in 2016, at least — is also in the exit poll. Asked which candidate quality mattered most to them in deciding their vote, almost 4 in 10 (39%) named “can bring change.” Of that group, Trump won 82% to 14% for Hillary Clinton.
The desire for radical change in Washington trumped — ahem — absolutely everything else in these critical voters’ mind. They were so sick of the status quo that they were willing to vote for someone in Trump who they neither liked nor trusted.
Which brings us back to Trump’s ad — and this line in particular: “Sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.” And explains why that sort of message just might work. Again.

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