Commentary: Trump’s Erratic Leadership Is Not Making America Great Again

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on February 6, 2017

In a previous post, I wrote effective leaders have three traits in common: They operationalize their decisions, base decisions on facts, and understand the possible consequences of their actions. Effective leaders also need to surround themselves with independent thinkers who will point out the brutal facts of reality.

These traits engender confidence, trust and credibility. President Donald Trump has yet to demonstrate these leadership traits.

Trump campaigned on the slogan, “Make America great again.” To date, his actions are accomplishing the opposite.

You don’t make America “great again” by:

1 — Trying to accomplish everything on the agenda within a few weeks. Quoting Rep. Charlie Dent (R – PA), “The White House appears intent on ‘trying to check boxes’ and speed through campaign promises as quickly as possible, even when ideas aren’t fully formed. They’re accelerating that when perhaps they ought to move more deliberately.”

2 — Pursuing “America First” international trade policies, which will drive our allies and geographic regions of the world into the arms of our economic, political and military rivals – notably China and Russia – that are waiting to increase their influence in the world at the expense of the U.S. They must be delighted at the opportunity Trump has given them.

3 — Arrogantly announcing the construction of a wall on the U.S. and Mexico border and stating Mexico will pay for it. They won’t. American consumers will pay for it with Trump’s recently proposed import tax on Mexican imports to the U.S. American workers will pay for it when some of them lose their jobs due to retaliatory duties on American products exported to Mexico.

4 — Angering European allies by questioning the U.S.’s long-standing military commitments to NATO. This undermines trust, one of the worst things a leader can do, and makes the U.S. less safe.

5 — Being inconsistent in your own policy positions, as is Trump with his contradictory statements on Israel regarding the building of new settlements on the West Bank. Trump often changes positions, which makes him hard to read.

6 — Reversing long-standing policies and positions of former Republican and Democratic presidents by campaigning on the relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, without thoughtful consideration and discussion of the possible reactions by the Arab World. Trump has recently backed off this campaign promise and said the relocation was only under consideration.

7 — Banning for 90 days the entry to the U.S. of immigrants who have been vetted for up to 18 months from Muslim-majority countries on former President Barack Obama’s terror watch list, even though there is no history of people from these countries causing death to an American.

Countries that were the source of terrorists who killed Americans were left off the ban list, such as Saudi Arabia. Was Saudi Arabia left off the list because Trump does business with them? Trump’s conflict of interest issues undermines his credibility.

8 — Banning individuals who hold green cards and who live in the U.S., separating family members. College students enrolled in our universities were also denied re-entry, preventing them from continuing their studies. Previously-vetted individuals attending business and professional meetings were denied entry.

9 — Delaying the entry to the U.S. of those Iraqis who risked their lives as translators assisting U.S. soldiers on the battlefield. How many will risk their lives in the future to help the U.S. military?

10 — Handing ISIS and al-Qaeda a significant recruiting tool through rhetoric and actions, something that former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama were very careful not to do. Trump is making America less safe.

On Feb. 3, U. S. District Court Judge James Robart in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s immigration ban. In response, Trump tweeted, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” So-called judge? You don’t make America great again by showing arrogance and disdain for the judiciary.

On Feb. 5, a federal appeals court denied Trump’s request to lift Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order. The court has asked both sides to file briefs for a hearing this week.

In June 2016, Trump also showed disdain for American-born U.S. federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was overseeing the Trump University case, demanding that the judge recuse himself because his parents were born in Mexico. Trump was concerned that his demand that Mexico pay for the border wall would prejudice the judge against Trump University.

Many Trump supporters give him a pass by saying, “He is only doing what he said he would do during the presidential campaign.” There is the right way of keeping campaign promises and the wrong way. Trump is doing it the wrong way, like a bull in a china shop.

Trump is heading down the wrong path, not listening to the professionals and experts, but instead relying on Steve Bannon and other ideological political operatives with no experience or expertise in national or international affairs.

There is no indication that Trump has learned from his first two-plus weeks as president or that he will change his leadership style.

Given that Trump had the lowest popularity rating just prior to his inauguration of any president in modern times and the likelihood that his ratings will get worse, the Republican Party needs to realize that his base of support going into the next Congressional election in less than two years will be a lot smaller, and they risk a significant loss of seats in the House and Senate.

Is this what the Republicans want? I don’t think so. They need to push back and show the electorate that they will resist Trump’s actions that make America less great and less safe.

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. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.

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