Leaders need to show grace in defeat

Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on November 9, 2020.

How leaders comport themselves in defeat is a measure of their character. It can positively or adversely impact the country they lead as it attempts to heal and move forward. It becomes part of a leader’s legacy. 

On Nov. 7, the state of Pennsylvania announced that Joe Biden won the 20 electoral votes of the state, pushing Biden above the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. He is now the president-elect. Kamala Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants and a woman of color, scored an important first to become the vice president-elect. 

All eyes are now on President Donald Trump. He will exercise his right to challenge the vote count in states where the vote was close, or where there is compelling evidence that alleged fraud made a difference in the outcome. At some point however, the time will come for Trump to concede the election. Will he? Time will tell.

If Trump does not concede, he will be the first president in 124 years not to do so. It will hurt his legacy.

In November 1992, when George Bush lost the presidential election to Bill Clinton, he said in his concession speech, “Here’s the way we see it and the country should see it: The people have spoken, and we respect the majesty of the democratic system …

“I just called Gov. Clinton over in Little Rock and offered him my congratulations. He did run a strong campaign. I wish him well in the White House, and I want the country to know that our entire administration will work closely with his team to ensure the smooth transition of power. There is important work to be done, and America must always come first. So, we will get behind this new president and wish him well.” President Bush is a man of character.

I am reminded of Trump’s victory speech when he won the presidency in November 2016. He said, “It is time for us to come together as one united people. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.” Trump was very presidential that day. Hopefully, he will be presidential in the days to come.

The country needs to heal after a bruising presidential campaign. This has nothing to do with politics. Trump needs to act in the country’s best interest by graciously conceding the election, and wishing Biden well, just as his predecessors have done. Hopefully, he will do so in the days to come. President Trump, think about your legacy.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. He can be reached at

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