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Commentary: Trump Needs to Remember Three Important Traits of Effective Leaders

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on January 30, 2017

All effective leaders have three important traits in common which engender confidence, trust and credibility.

President Donald Trump has yet to demonstrate these leadership traits to many Americans.

Effective leaders:

Operationalize their decisions

On Jan. 27, Trump issued an executive order suspending the entry of individuals to the U.S. if they are from seven Muslim majority nations. Trump and his administration did not think through how the details of his order would be operationalized. He could have done this with much more finesse.

Green card holders and students from the Muslim-majority countries identified in the executive order who currently reside in the U.S. and who were traveling outside the country on business or holiday fell under Trump’s executive order.

Many of these individuals were not able to re-enter the U.S. Immigrant families who were in transit and have already undergone an extensive vetting process over many months, in some cases more than a year, were sent back upon arrival in the U.S. Not a very humane or empathic thing to do.

Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted or operationalized to address these and other issues: Did Homeland Security have input before the executive order was drafted? What steps were taken to ensure that the order was legal and would be consistently applied at destination airports?

Several federal judges across the country have temporarily halted implementation of portions of this executive order. At some airports, custom and border patrol agents reportedly ignored the federal judges’ orders, which would be unprecedented. People are being harmed, as is the reputation and standing of the U.S. within the global community.

What Trump should have done was beef-up the vetting process that already was in place. That, however, would not match his rhetoric during the presidential campaign that won Trump votes.

Hopefully, the large number of massive demonstrations that are taking place across the U.S. since the executive order took effect will soften how the order will be implemented.

Base their decisions on facts

The coining of the term “alternate facts” by Special Assistant to the President Kellyanne Conway, as well as Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comparing various inauguration day crowd size estimates to conflicting weather reports, did nothing to engender trust and confidence in Trump or in these two members of his administration.

There is no evidence for Trump’s continuing assertion that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because three to five million illegal immigrants voted for Clinton. This is probably the first time the winner of an election has ever complained about the vote count.

His focus on inauguration day crowd size and the popular vote count shows that to Trump, everything is about him and his image, regardless of the facts. There are more important things for a president to focus on.

Understand the possible consequences of their actions

Trump ran on a platform of creating jobs for the American worker. He wants to raise tariffs on imported goods to force more of these products to be produced in the U.S. However, Trump has yet to publicly recognize the consequences of doing so.

Countries whose products are subject to U.S. import tariffs most likely would retaliate by placing import tariffs on American goods entering their countries. This would be a huge blow to American workers producing these products. The trade war in the early 1930s was one of the causes of the Great Depression. The world does not need another trade war.

Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, the newly confirmed secretaries of State and Defense, two non-politicians, did not advance through ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) or the Marine Corps without operationalizing their strategies, basing their decisions on facts and understanding the possible consequences of their actions. They must be wondering about the values and cultural norms of the team they are now part of as members of Trump’s cabinet.

Trump needs to remember the traits of effective leaders that engender confidence, trust and credibility. He will have a more successful presidency if he does.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

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