As the presidential election in the US approaches, there's going to be a lot more coverage about Donald Trump - and, inevitably, much of it is going to be overwhelmingly negative. It can, quite frankly, be enough to put you off politics altogether or at the very least limit your consumption of the news.
But there may be a silver lining to this all. As John Harris points out in his article, there are a number of different, distinct interpretations of Trump's leadership and, by taking a look at the best and worst aspects of these, we can take a deep dive into what makes a good leader.
Firstly, many have accused Trump of buffoonery - an accusation which isn't entirely unfounded. In a recent presentation at Flagship, one of the team explored Trump's language - including his seeming inability to speak in developed sentences. While this has evidently had some success, I think most of us agree that we prefer our leaders to have a grasp of language and grammar that goes beyond primary school levels. It does pose an interesting point, however, about speakers who appear too slick and polished. We want our leaders to be articulate and well-spoken, yes, but we still want them to be human and relatable.
Next comes the suggestion that Trump is dangerous, a threat to the very fabric of democracy. This may be less immediately applicable to the world of business leaders, but I think there are still some parallels. As Barack Obama mentioned in his speech at the Democratic National Convention, we don't necessarily expect continuity when one leader steps down and another takes their place. However, we do want to see a certain level of respect for the values and purpose already in place. Even if these ultimately end up being changed, leaders who carelessly tear away at the essence of a business simply to make their own mark inspire only resentment and fear - not loyalty or collaboration.
Finally, the most flattering portrayal of Trump's presidency: he's a man of the people, championing the voices that have previously gone unheard in mainstream politics. It's easy to see how this basic premise translates - good leaders make sure everyone has a voice, and crucially that everyone feels heard. However, there is a crucial nuance to this that Trump's approach overlooks. Not all experiences are the same, and not all have equal weight, which can undoubtedly be a very tricky minefield to navigate. Creating an environment in which everyone feels safe and valued means really listening, giving a voice to the voiceless and - vitally - stepping up for those who would otherwise be stepped on.
Good leaders represent the voices of their teams. But really good leaders pick out the stories that need to be told, and create safe spaces for their people to thrive.
Buffoon and tyrant aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But they point in very different directions. And the tension between the two highlights a curious reality.