According to the Washington Post, President Trump has told over 3000 lies since he was sworn in as US President.
For many of those lies, you might think that any intelligent person knows they can’t be true, such as asserting that the border wall with Mexico was being built, when it’s not. Some of them might be based on ignorance – such as claiming that the US “loses” $500b on its trade deficits with China – when no-one actually loses money on a trade deficit. Others just appear to be made up bits of nonsense.
It’s trite to say how unusual it is that the leader of the world’s second largest democracy has such a relationship with the truth. But that is not as astonishing as how all these lies appear to be accepted or at best, excused by many people.
At times I think that those that follow Trump must be ignorant or stupid. They might be, but it might be that leadership is wanted more than we realise, in any form. Even though I write this leadership blog and help people with their leadership development, I don’t personally feel any great urge for anybody to lead me. But I’ve noticed that many people do and over millennia we see examples of people foolishly and tragically following leaders – maybe out of fear – but often out of a desire to be led somewhere…anywhere!
Many people want a leader, warts and all. Trump is that leader for many people. Did I just say that!
The group I was in the other day was asked by the facilitator “are you for or against Trump?”. Yes, I replied, I don’t think you can be benign about him. Some people feel angry, not just in America, but everywhere.
Anger creates reactions and high interest when we see it. It has a place when our ethics are seriously undermined, or behaviour around us deliberately sets to undermine us or our organisation. It can create fear and further anger if not contained. But anger is not rage which is uncontrolled, scary and shouldn’t be in our toolkit.
What to make of Trump I often think. He seems like he’s in an uncontrolled rage much of the time, although we don’t see it directly expressed, other than in the middle-of-the-night texts. The administration he leads seems fueled by rage – rage at minorities and those that support them, at political opponents, at other countries, the FBI and Special Counsel – and so on.
You could argue that he’s standing up for what he believes in. Despite that proposition being very difficult to determine (I originally wrote laughable here!), it’s not authentic leadership by any stretch. Authentic Leadership requires empathy, a strong ethical compass, firmness when needed, and nurturing those that need support. Not abandonment and undermining.
Actually the title is an oxymoron. But we’re seeing a lot of blaming in political leadership. Trump is an obvious example. Started his campaign for US President by blaming Mexicans for real or imagined woes. The solution was a wall. Almost daily he seems to have crises that are to be blamed on others – staff, the Democrats, the media is popular – without any sense of personal responsibility.
There’s actually two sorts of blaming that Trump is involved in. The first is blaming groups of people for societal problems. The second is blaming groups of people or individuals as the case may be, for day-to-day issues.
The former is the most serious and we owe it to ourselves to be constantly vigilant to protect our freedom and democracy. Trump justified his initial blaming of Mexicans with dubious comments about crimes they have committed.
We have a new government in New Zealand. At the heart of this government is a strong signal that immigrants and foreigners are to blame for transport congestion, house prices and struggling infrastructure. It’s an attractive scenario on the face of it. If we’ve let too many people into the country or let them own assets without properly equipping ourselves for it, then it’s got to stop.
But it’s a very slippery slope. When the Labour Party produced it’s list of Chinese-sounding names of house buyers there was an outrage. Some Chinese families have been here since the early 19th century. But more significantly, it was simply racial profiling, the likes of which we hadn’t seen from a political party since Muldoon’s Samoan overstayer crackdown in the 1970s.
Labour is now as one with NZ First in cutting immigration to fix problems that immigrants have allegedly caused. The solution is not going to be a wall, but paperwork at the border at Auckland International Airport in Mangere.
Now is the time for leaders everywhere to stay vigilant to protect those being blamed.
It’s trite to say that there’s a lot of change right now. I’ve told myself to stop reading Trump news but I can’t. It’s seems every day brings more deconstruction, as Stephen Bannon calls it, of a democratic government. He seems to be quite reclusive, probably an introvert and if you read what he has to say about the state of the Western World he’s very hostile to immigrants, trade agreements, non-Christians, non-whites, the LGBTQ community. Anyone unlike him.
According to Wikipedia “Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, an online far-right news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has “pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right“.
I’ve been wondering how a person ends up that. You might also wonder how he ended up as the right hand person to the US President. But that’s not what this is about.
Fear. Bannon is scared. Living through all that change and feeling forced to accept progress and equality when you believe they are poisonous. So now it’s revenge and trying to change the world to stop being scared.
And you thought that Trump feeding his insatiable ego was bad enough.
Change can be scary and leaders should be ready to understand, confront and allay fears. Especially now.
The notion of a Christmas for peace and tolerance is lacking in world affairs. What were once expressions of wise leadership are expressions about controlling others and rule by dogma, supported by special interest groups (to put it neutrally) including white supremacists, Evangelical Christians, billionaires etc. If you were religiously minded the phrase “unholy alliance” must come to mind.
I wonder why people are voting for autocratic leaders. Leadership isn’t for everyone and for some people, even self leadership is a challenge. Which is why leaders have such a privileged position of responsibility for creating meaningful dialogue, compassion and to treat others fairly. But what happens when enough of the population votes for something else? Voting, it seems, to treat minorities whether because of poverty, religion, sexual orientation or race as exceptions to the norm who can be ignored at best, and at worst, ridiculed. Something has broken down.
It’s complex – there’s globalisation, economic malaise for many, refugees, terrorism – but surely this is the time to call on the best that we all have and what some people say Christmas is about – tolerance, which for the Christmas story is about protecting a homeless child and caring for a new, possibly single, mother – not turning a blind eye or worse attacking those who seem “different“.
Special interest groups including religion have long held a seat at the table of power. I hope those special interest leaders use their new found power to promote tolerance, liberty and compassion. I’m not holding my breath.
It does make me realise how fortunate we are in New Zealand. It’s easy to forget. Summer too. I hope you’re having a good Christmas with those important to you.
You might think that if you’d just won the election for the most powerful position in the world you’d be reasonably content (assuming that’s what you wanted). Recently, Donald Trump appeared to get angry because people at the musical Hamilton booed his deputy (it’s comical – politician gets booed (that’s never happened before), goes running, upset, to Uncle Donald who in turn demands an apology via an early morning tweet – really!).
In South Auckland, a church leader, Brian Tamaki had a rant about earthquakes being caused by gays. If it wasn’t for the tragic consequences of Kaikoura Earthquake for the victims it might be comical too, tectonic plates et al.
Whatever the leader’s area of influence he or she can’t control everything. Or even want to you’d hope. Control is a necessary resource for a leader to use sparingly as and when required.
These two examples might be ridiculous and even funny. But they’re deadly serious. The leader-elect of the free world endeavouring to bully critics into silence (btw, it’s a democracy). A leader of a church stigmatising and abusing an entire community (and those in support including families) based on sexual orientation.
Angry men out of control have been known to do unconscionable things to get their own way.
Leadership is a privilege. When it’s abused to undermine democracy and freedom in any form we owe it to ourselves to speak up and declare it unacceptable.