In order to comprehend
the nature of leadership theory, this case
study will analyse a leader
in terms of personality traits and motivational bias,
leadership style and integrative
complexity. I have chosen to complete an in-depth study of
the United States President Donald Trump, as there is currently a massive
divide throughout the country and he is a significant world leader.
Nearly one year
on, President Trump is considered one of the most controversial leaders of the
current time. The
purpose of this case study is to compare the characteristics, behaviour and
personal motivation of Donald Trump in order to draw a conclusion on his
leadership style (strengths and weaknesses) using resources available to the
public. This essay will look at
and analyse public appearances of President Trump calling attention the
narratives and impact made in each instance.
(The purpose of this essay is not to catalogue each performance, but to
identify key discursive moments that call attention to his qualities as a
leader.) This paper will also draw on a
broad range of supporting texts, including online, newspaper and magazine
articles, online ‘blog’ postings and biographical materials to contextualise
important events and public reactions.
Introduction: Donald Trump Profile
June 14, 1946 Donald John
Trump was born. He was the fourth of
five children to Frederick and Mary MacLeod Trump. He grew up in Queens, New York, United States. He
is an American business executive, entrepreneur, radio and
television personality, author and current
President of the United States. He is the CEO of the Trump Organization, a
US-based real-estate developer, and the founder of Trump Entertainment, which
operates several casinos.
Donald began his real estate career,
while still in college initially concentrating in his father’s
preferred field of rental housing for the middle-class.
By 1971, Trump began his own business in property development and hotel
industry; renaming the company The Trump Organization. Even
though the initial business ventures were successful, by 1989, the effects of
recession left Trump unable to meet loan payments.
In 1991 and 1992, Trump
businesses Taj Mahal Casino and three others were forced to
enter a bankruptcy protection plan. By 1994,
Trump restructured the financing with bond holders and reduced his personal
debts significantly. Finally in 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts
announced restructuring of its debt and in 2005 the company re-emerged from
bankruptcy. Trump International Hotels industry continued to flourish.
Trump experienced a series of
successes and failures as a businessman.
Some of his companies have made millions, while a total of six have
filed for bankruptcy. He has been sued
by many people over his business practices.
He has owned casinos, hotels, luxury apartments, beauty contests and a
private business school. He was the star
of the American reality TV show The
Apprentice, in which contestants compete to be hired by him.
Trump first made a name for himself in
politics when he joined the ‘birther movement’, which tried to discredit
President Obama by wrongly claiming that he hadn’t been born in the USA. Despite Obama releasing his birth
certificate, proving that he was born in the US state of Hawaii, Trump
persisted. He took to Twitter to
criticise President Obama during his years in office and his tweets attracted
many followers. In 2015, Donald Trump
announced he was running for president and after a whirlwind campaign fight, he
was elected. On 20 January 2017 he was
inaugurated into office.
as a leader
trademark hair and bold red tie, Donald Trump placed his left hand on the Bible
and swore an oath to become the 45th President of the United States of
America. During his inaugural speech, he
confidently approached the podium, gave the crowd a thumbs up and delivered a
message that was very clear: the people have won this election and because of
this, “we will get the job done” (Trump, 2017).
beginning, Donald Trump showed his leadership skills by being able to read the
people and understand what they wanted was change. This played to his strengths the entire
campaign. He ended his inaugural address
with his slogan, we will “make America great again” (Trump,
2017). One might say this has been
Trump’s vision from the beginning, but how can we quantify the term
“great”? Every leader should
have a clear vision and be able to communicate that vision to their people; it
should be so concrete that it cannot be reinterpreted by anyone else. It seems that his supporters see his vision
as a way to have change and are determined to follow no matter what; while
others are not so certain.
A vision should
demonstrate outcomes in order to be purposeful and compelling. I haven’t seen this to be the case with
President Trump. He is quick to tell us
the things he wants: for instance, a wall between the United States and Mexico
and a replacement for the Affordable Care Act; but it is not clear how he will
achieve this or the future outcomes.
What are the benefits to the American people if these were to occur? Example: better healthcare at lower
costs? These should be made clear. He demonstrates excellent ideas that could
easily be supported by everyone: impenetrable borders, powerful defence, more
jobs coming back to the United States;
however, these are mere statements and very vague, with little support
of how to make them happen.
star quality is addictive; even his haters are drawn to what he will do
next. Media in the United States is now
a thriving business with cable news ratings up fifty percent and CNN projected
to earn one billion dollars (USD) this year!
Even the newspapers have seen improvements; within the first eighteen
days after the election, The New York Times added 132,000 subscribers! (Taibbi,
2017) Donald Trump is making waves and
getting attention. With star power,
brings influence. His presidency will
make an impact even if he achieves nothing.
This is a new type of president and a new kind of leader; one who
manages to manipulate the way people think.
Donald Trump is a
brand. People know who he is and they
have a strong opinion of him. He is a
successful, charismatic leader, who knows the importance of branding and the
power of personality. He comes out
strong with his slogan, “make America great again”, his team of
supporters are there to promote and reinforce his “brand” of
president and he says things with such confidence you can only believe he will
get those things done.
Trump isn’t just
a controversial figure who splits opinions; on more than one occasion, he has actually
misled the public. According to the
PolitiFact website, only 30% of what President Trump says holds any truth. He has made exaggerations and unreliable
statements about gun control, tax cuts, immigration and health care. The list goes on. When confronted with the untrue statements,
President Trump attempts to discredit others instead of admitting a mistake. The trouble here is that lying has become
synonymous with politics, so most supporters won’t blink an eye to these
statistics, instead giving him credit for boldly speaking his mind.
At times, rhetoric
has been a defence for what Donald Trump says, meaning what he says is not
meant to be taken literally. This
justification can undermine a leader’s credibility. Research has shown that making extreme
statements doesn’t actually increase your persuasive abilities; in fact having
the opposite effect on people who go out of their way to prove you wrong.
There was evidence
in Donald Trump’s campaign that left few doubts about his motives, values and
candour; no matter how divisive or outrageous they may seem. Plagued by questions of his integrity and
honesty during the campaign, he responded by presenting himself as a man of conviction.
Critical to his self image (as well as
to his campaign strategy) was a view of himself as a victim, especially by the
“fake news” and a “rigged” election.
characteristics reflect a strong component of self-idealisation. Most people want
to think well of themselves, however, Donald Trump appears to believe he is the
best; disputing evidence that goes against him or proves otherwise. Any attention called to a number of
discrepancies between his real behaviour and his view of it, as was done by the
press during the campaign and the first year of his presidency, was met with
denial and unconcealed frustration and anger (mostly through Twitter as a
There is little
mistaking Donald Trump’s substantial level of ambition. His path from real estate mogul, to creating the
Trump brand and now becoming the President of the United States, is a chronicle
and testament to his personal and political ambitions. He’s even written books
called Think Big, Think Like a Champion and Time to Get Tough. He exudes confidence, is bold, competitive
and self-assured. These can all be characteristics
of a great leader.
There was also
little doubt that Trump had the determination to accomplish his ambition–a
great reserve of energy, drive and a capacity to stick with his investment in both
success and work. He sets goals and does
whatever necessary to accomplish these goals.
This high energy can create a lot of momentum when put to good use. He has a track record of setting extremely
high personal goals; but now that he is president, the question remains are
these goals for personal gratification or for the good of the country?
high-energy can be associated with fast decisions. This at times has caused his opposers to call
him chaotic, erratic, reckless and unpredictable. He seems to lack focus: jumping from
different task to task rather than looking at one or two and coming up with
solutions. One minute he is speaking about health care, the next his target is
security and immigration.
is the foundation of achievement, they are not the same thing. There must be a match between the level of
ambition and the skills needed to accomplish it. A strong need for achievement is a desirable
trait in a president. A president who
lacks a desire to achieve will also lack a strong sense of what he wants to
accomplish and the conviction to follow through. The combination of intense ambition, high
self-confidence and strong self-regard lead Trump to be very directed toward
achievement. Modest successes are not
sufficient, as seen throughout his business career; he has a desire to be revolutionary.
Trump combines an
intense desire to accomplish with a highly competitive nature. His desire to win by having things done his
way suggests that his reputation as a ruthless employer has some validity. If you are on his team, he expects you to do
get the job done or he’ll replace you with someone who has the determination to
do so. He craves power and uses it as a
driving force of his motivation.
He is a
workaholic. He was quoted in the Daily News, “How does somebody
that’s sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that’s sleeping 3 or
4?” This energy can be contagious and is one of the reasons that President
Trump was able to get so many supporters.
It is also something that could lead to burnout, however at 71 years
old, this is probably not the case. He
believes that energy creates passion, which has been evident throughout his
life. As a leader, his passion
translates energy down to others, which gets them onboard for his cause.
In meetings, he
is the one that is in charge. He is the
decision maker and needs others to keep his pace. He is obsessive and detail oriented;
micromanaging every task undertaken. He
leads from the top. As a strength he is someone who takes initiative, yet as a
weakness can be seen as impulsive and lacking focus.
Donald Trump is
dominant, the alpha male so to speak; a strong leader with a lack of
empathy. His business experience has
created an attitude of get on board or go home. He demonstrated this on his
realty series The Apprentice and
seems to have brought it with him to the White House; firing anyone that step
out of line or aren’t of any use anymore: Sally Yates (acting Attorney
General), James Comey (Director of the FBI), Anthony Scaramucci (White House
communications director), as well as several US attorneys.
is a strong negotiator and through these negotiation skills he has learned that
intimidation has it’s uses. This
aggressive approach may work in some instances (if your opponent uses the same
style or you’re fighting for something you really want), but does not seem
effective for dealing with long-term American allies, like the European Union
and Mexico, who would rather feel part of a team, not like they’re being pushed
around or strong-armed. In The Art of the Deal, Trump says to start
negotiations from a position of strength, aim high and fight. (Trump, 2016). Effective leaders are able to keep their
distance from emotional relationships to focus on the bigger picture; something
President Trump’s experience in the business world has made him an expert of.
Another sign of a
dominant leader is having an explosive temper and being prone to
irritability. We have seen this time and
time again through public humiliation and name calling of staff, attacks
towards the media and public rants on Twitter.
It is understandable to feel anger and frustration towards the
unsubstantiated reports of the damning information that Russia may have about
his financial and personal life; he has even referred others as,
“sleazebag”, “stupid”, “failed spy” because of
it, however it seems reckless for a leader to point the finger towards a 3-way-conspiracy
(as seen on Twitter, 19 October 2017).
Such actions can create chaos and
shows a lack of discipline.
Donald Trump is dysfunctional and shameless. As a result, instead of acting like a leader
wanting to “make America great again”, he attacks anything he thinks
is wrong with it; even when doing so goes against the founding principles of the
country. Rather than use positive
language to build a vision of what a future America would look like, he is
quick to point out its weaknesses. Because
of this negativity, the president struggles to promote unity in times of
turmoil. He ignites fear in people;
causing an even bigger divide and intensifies the violence that has existed in
America for quite some time.
Fear based leadership is not always a
bad thing, however, and can work well in the short term. Fear can make a leader seem more powerful and
give them a sense of authority. Fear
causes urgency, which in turn forces people to prioritise and get things
done. It is also a good way to trigger
an emotional response in others, possibly leading them towards supporting you
and your cause. On the downside, this
fear tactic and aggression could cause workers to be less productive and lose
In his past, big
risks had to be taken in order to get ahead in the business world and encourage
his becoming a billionaire. High risks
can often lead to high rewards when making decisions. These risks, however have also cost him
(including six bankruptcies) which led him to make more conservative choices
since the 90’s.
taking, like his character, contains inconsistent elements. In some areas, he
goes in all guns blazing, while others, he is more calculated and forward
thinking. The combination of strong
ambition, high self-confidence and a lack of understanding for the way things
work on Capitol Hill, means he sometimes makes decisions without having a
plan. This was most noticeable in his
promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act within his first one
hundred days as president; which was unsuccessful as he offered no suitable
alternative for people to agree on.
In other words,
strong ambition and high levels of self-confidence can lead to poor
judgment. Although the health care in
America may not be perfect, there were other issues that could have been
tackled first in order to make time to improve President Trump’s changes to the
Affordable Care Act and get others on side.
His knowledge of difficult issues is superficial, which can lead him to
act on impulse without understanding the implications of his decisions or the
long term consequences.
Donald Trump is a
good judge of character. As the star of
the Apprentice, he was known for judging talent and is demonstrating that in
many of his appointments as president thus far.
“One reason that I have been successful in business is that I hire
the best people. I pay them well, and
keep them working for me.” (Trump, 2015, p. 17, Great Again). General James
Mattis for Secretary of Defence is a good example of this; a retired Marine
Corps general of over 40 years is not just a “yes, man”, but a
strong, well liked leader with experience.
Dr David Shulkin is another prime example of President Trump’s excellent
choice for Secretary of Veterans Affairs; a man with government experience in
dealing with veterans rights who was unanimously agreed upon by the Senate.
Not all of
President Trump’s nominations have been as well supported and some might even question
his motive for appointing such under qualified people (and in some cases, with
opposing views to the jobs they hold) to the Cabinet. It seems ironic that President Trump’s choice
for the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has
been sceptical of climate change, yet now is in charge of protecting our environment;
and Rick Perry proposed to eliminate the Department of Energy in his 2012
presidential campaign but now heads the agency as Energy Secretary. With this “weak” team, it seems
that these cabinet members may fit an alternate purpose: loosening of
regulations for emissions, a smaller amount money spent towards studying global
warming and less preservation of public land.
As a leader with an agenda, this is definitely a way to get things done;
however it may also be something others see as sly and dishonest.
Donald Trump is
an extrovert. He is outgoing and in
constant interaction with people–at rallies, in interviews and on social
media. He creates a connection that
feels authentic with today’s audience. He
has found a way of embracing new technology to directly communicate with the
public and show that he controls the conversation, not the media.
President Trump is
proactive, speaking directly to the voters, creating open communication to tell
people exactly what he is going do in a very interpersonal way. He has
kept his own personal Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump), rather than using the
official account (Donald Trump @POTUS, which has less than half as many
followers). On a scale that’s far
different than previous presidents, who have only campaigned to have
“transparency” in their administrations; he is doing just that. He is in touch with the people on a daily
basis and through his comments, whether good or bad, shows that they don’t need
anyone else (namely a bias media) to explain what he meant. Instead, he will let the American people do
that themselves through a direct link with the president.
media, President Trump is able to communicate quickly and often, meaning that
once the television and newspapers are ready to go public with their story,
Trump is already on to the next thing. This
enables him to stay one step ahead of the media and keep the focus on him and
ability to communicate with others in an informal way can often undermine his
comments making them seem less important, than if he was to make an official
announcement during an event or press conference. For example, using Twitter to belittle White
House staff, announcing policy positions and Tweeting of conspiracies (as
discussed previously) are all haphazard ways of making him look foolish.
One theory is
that President Trump’s outbursts are not thoughtless, random and driven by
emotion, but deliberate through many years of successful business experience and
used to intimidate the opposition and negotiate better deals. If his public personality were driven solely by
the need to be the centre of attention, it would be expected of him to be
narcissistic in his personal life too.
This doesn’t seem to be the case.
He is often described as a good listener, a fair and generous boss, a
loyal friend and a fantastic father.
Yet almost every
psychological evaluation of Donald Trump, does just that (calls him a
narcissist). He is the centre of his
world, with The Trump Organization, Trump Tower, Trump Golf, Trump Winery,
Trump Hotels, Trump International and now the Trump presidency. Donald Trump has attached his name to almost
everything. Positive traits of a narcissistic
president would be the power to persuade, set an agenda and initiate
legislation; can also come across as charming and charismatic. The negatives can be unethical behaviour,
breaking rules for personal gain, egocentricity, superiority, and a sensitivity
to criticism. Does this sound like President
Trump? The easy answer is yes!
What can we learn about leadership from President Donald J. Trump?
Love him or hate
him, President Trump knows who he is. He
has confidence and the self-belief that he is the best for the job and can get it
done. As a leader, it is important to
know yourself, know your purpose and follow through.
It is essential
to establish a clear vision and be able to communicate that accordingly. Communication with others should be well
thought out and deliberate. As leaders,
we must speak so that we get our point across (without using jargon or
rhetoric), so what we are saying is understood.
enthusiasm and passion with others. It
is important to get everyone on board; find out what makes people unhappy and
come up with strategies for change. Surround
yourself with a strong team and come up with ways to put your plan in
place. Empower your team and utilise
their strengths. With everyone on board,
you can accomplish anything.
Another key area
is conflict management. We can come in
to conflict at any time in our lives, but it is especially true when promoting
change. While there are many people who
will support our ideas, there will also be those who oppose them because of
different beliefs and values. With those
opposing views comes conflict. It is
important to be able to handle the conflict with professionalism and
respect. We should be able to show the
importance of fighting for what we believe in whilst respecting the opinions of
It is important
to be organised. Without organisation, a
leader can appear uninformed and incompetent.
Don’t be afraid
to use social media for marketing. A
school is a business and one that needs student intake in order to be
successful. It means nothing to know
you’re the best if others are unaware; use self-promotion to spread the word of
fantastic things you are doing or opportunities you offer that others may not.
A good leader
doesn’t compromise integrity or character no matter what. Donald Trump is consistent; what you see is
what you get. Even his outbursts have
become expected and therefore unsurprising for the American public. This creates a feeling of authenticity, like
you know him on a more personal level.
He is recognisable. Do something
that will make yourself stand out.
Be honest in
order to create trust. An honest leader
is one that others know they can rely on, which creates loyalty within the
Be committed and
lead by example. If you work hard,
others will work hard for you.