This week, business executives from across America joined voices to send a resounding message to Donald Trump: “We do not approve.” Their collective response to Trump’s racist revelations and his refusal to unequivocally condemn hate groups following the Charlottesville neo-Nazi riots demonstrated concern for their own constituents — consumers driven by socio-political advocacy — and individual morality. They set an example for Trump that he has been unable to grasp.
Within a few days of Trump’s racist-confirming rants on camera and Twitter, members of two White House advisory councils began quitting. Their audacity enraged Trump and he attacked and bullied them on Twitter. It did not take long before the most powerful women and men in American business abandoned their roles as advisors and dissolved Trump’s panels for his support of racism and his infantile tantrums. It is the first time in U.S. history that business leaders have refused to participate in esteemed roles as White House counsellors. With two of his councils already disbanded, Trump announced late yesterday that he would discontinue organizing his infrastructure policy group.
On Thursday morning, the Senior Associate Dean of Executive Programs at Yale School of Management, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld appeared on MSNBC and offered a scathing assessment of Trump’s alleged business talent. Until now, most of Trump’s critics have focused on his new role as a political leader, but Sonnenfeld delved into Trump’s self-proclaimed deal-making expertise, saying, “Trump is not a Fortune 500 business leader.” He went on to suggest that Trump merely masquerades as a prodigious business leader while riding the accomplishments, accolades, and ideas of more skilled peers.
There is no doubt that leadership in both the modern business arena and big government require similar skill sets. Additionally, neither business nor government can be led singularly because of the amount of information, data, and wide-ranging policies that must be considered and exercised. The most successful CEOs, innovators, and business moguls rely on cadres of analysts, advisors, and assistants to gather, wrangle, and interpret data and information. From chief executives and presidents, to governors and Oval Office leaders, modern leaders trust highly condensed and only the most relevant information to guide them.
No leader attempts to lead alone. It is a position of weakness, which is why Trump’s failures in Washington are mounting. He is like an unskilled circus clown trying to stand on a tent pole instead of a scaffold.
Regardless of Trump’s Washington leadership model, Sonnenfeld’s academic assessment of his business acumen is not necessarily problematic. Riding the coattails of others is not the most honorable ascension to greatness in America, but it is a common enough practice that it has become an accepted method of climbing the corporate ladder. Additionally, it is a model that would translate adequately to politics — if Trump had peers to follow and surround himself with in the White House.
However, Trump has neither appointed, nor relied on, an especially gifted circle of competent or knowledgeable advisors. Not only is he failing in his own achievements in government, but Trump has also created a void where there are no concomitant successes for him to draw on for a boost. He has clipped the coattails that may have afforded him opportunities.
With the republican dominated government nearly stalled, Trump’s approval ratings continue to plummet, and it appears that he will accomplish little in his first year…because he only pretends to aspire to leadership. As he does in business, Trump is masquerading around Washington as a political VIP, and it is no ball for the American people. When the mask finally comes off, the results are going to be ugly.