11 December 2019
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I have decided to rate Trump’s leadership qualities as objectively as possible using John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, based on the best-selling book - here's what he scores.

Trump passes the leadership test - just!

Peter Switzer
7 November 2016

Be clear on this, I’m not a great Hillary Clinton fan – her once shiny halo has been tarnished following her stint in politics. However I fear what stock markets might do if Donald Trump becomes President of the US. His economic policies could really knock markets around, when consumer and business confidence just doesn’t need it. I think 2017 is shaping up as good for economies and stock markets but Trump could be the curve ball we don’t need.

So I have decided to rate Trump’s leadership qualities as objectively as possible using John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, based on the best-selling book of the same name.

Any quotes used will come from Maxwell’s great work.

  1. The Law of the Lid says someone’s ability to lead will determine his effectiveness. On that score, Trump comes up trumps. He might have had some business failures but he’s a leader and his brand building added to his political campaigning success gives him a tick on this test.
  2. On the Law of Influence, Maxwell says “the true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less” and again Trump scores a tick. You might not like his influence but he’s got it big time! Tick.
  3. The Law of Process says you have to your leadership skills develop daily. Clearly, Trump is a 24/7 committed player to the business of being Donald. Mark Bouris, who plays Donald locally in our version of The Apprentice, while admitting he and his US counterpart are very different, acknowledges how Trump “is on song 24/7”. You might not like his song but it has worked to build his brand and his fortune. Benjamin Disraeli once told us that “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes”. And it looks like Trump is ready but I guess many hope that the majority of voting Americans don’t like what he is ready for! He gets a tick here.
  4. The Law of Navigation gets down to anyone can steer the ship but it takes a leader to chart the course. Trump has a course where he wants to take the ship of state (which around half of America has serious doubts about). And probably the rest of the world, except maybe Vladimir Putin, agree with that half. No tick for Donald on this one.
  5. The Law of Addition says leaders add value by serving others. They bring the best out in others. And as Billy Bush might admit, Donald brought the worst out in him and he lost his TV gig. No analysis required here as Donald is number one for Donald, so no tick for this one.
  6. The Law of Solid Ground rests on trust. Maxwell argues “trust is the foundation of leadership. It is the most important thing. Leaders cannot repeatedly break trust with people and continue to influence them.” Donald’s track record with women hardly makes it easy to give him a tick on this score.
  7. The Law of Respect. Here Maxwell says “people naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves. That’s how the Law of Respect works.” Like him or loathe him but Donald has the respect of a lot of people as his recent polling tells us. That’s a tick.
  8. The Law of Intuition often separates good from great leaders. Adolf Hitler worked out Depression Germany and Donald Trump has worked out post-GFC America. He has intuition, big time, so there’s a tick!
  9. The Law of Magnetism is pretty simple and makes sense in most situations. You draw people to you who possess the same qualities you do. Maxwell argues: “Who you are is who you attract. If you want to attract better people, become the kind of person you desire to attract.” Trump, regrettably, has magnetism and that’s why he’s in this race with a real chance. Tick!
  10. The Law of Connection works on how a leader relates to people. “For leaders to be effective, they need to connect with people,” Maxwell explains. “All great leaders recognise this truth and act on it almost instinctively. You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion.” Trump is a first-rate salesman and has perfected connection to his target audience. I don't like his connection but he’s good at it. Tick.
  11. The Law of the Inner Circle says “Nobody does anything great alone, nor do leaders succeed alone. What makes the difference is the leader’s inner circle.” Trump regularly goes off script and no one seriously thinks his advising team is the cream of the crop but, with the exception of Rudi Giuliani, they look more like the cream of the crap! No tick here.
  12. The Law of Empowerment, according to Maxwell, says: “Only secure leaders give power to others.” If you want to be successful, you have to be willing to empower others. Theodore Roosevelt once said: “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self- restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”  Trump is a control freak and trusts his own judgment above others. No tick here.
  13. The Law of Picture is about the demonstration effect a leader leaves behind. “When leaders show the way with their right actions, their followers copy their good example and succeed.” Good example comes with his brand-building – it’s one of the world’s best but his integrity example KO’s his selling qualities when it comes to political leadership. Surely! Can’t give a tick here.
  14. The Law of Buy-In says that “The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream. That’s how the Law of Buy-In works.” Trump has nailed this one for a lot of Americans, so that’s a tick.
  15. The Law of Victory is a black and white issue. “Victorious leaders have one thing in common: they share an unwillingness to accept defeat,” Maxwell points out. “The alternative to winning is totally unacceptable to them. As a result, they figure out what must be done to achieve victory.” Trump might miss out on the US presidency but he’s been a winner for a long time, so that’s a tick.
  16. The Law of Big Mo is about momentum. “If you’ve got all the passion, tools and people you need to fulfill a great vision, yet you can’t seem to get your organisation moving and going in the right direction, you’re dead in the water as a leader. If you can’t get things going, you will not succeed. You need to harness the power of the leader’s best friend – momentum.” Trump is a Mo-man, so that has to be a tick!
  17. The Law of Priorities. Maxwell explains that “Busyness does not equal productivity. Activity is not necessarily accomplishment. Prioritizing requires leaders to continually think ahead, to know what’s important, to see how everything relates to the overall vision.” Trump gets this and it’s why he is so close to being the 45th President of the US – POTUS! Tick.
  18. The Law of Sacrifice says “A leader must give up to go up”. Trump has sacrificed a normal life for an abnormal life and success has come his way but I’d argue that he doesn’t sacrifice hard things for other people who would show him to be a selfless leader. No tick here.
  19. The Law of Timing is one Trump clearly has mastered as no one like him would have got so far in this presidential race 10 or 20 years ago. Maxwell sums up this law this way: “Reading the right situation and knowing what to do are not enough to make you succeed in leadership. If you want your company to move forward, you must pay attention to timing. Only the right action at the right time will bring success.” Tick!
  20. The Law of Explosive Growth says great businesses have a lot of people who one day will be great leaders. Maxwell’s work on great leaders and businesses makes him conclude: “To add growth, lead followers – to multiply, lead leaders.” When Jack Welch led GE, many of his executive team went on to head up other Fortune 500 companies. History says little about the Trump apprentices who actually became anyone noteworthy so no tick for Donald on this one.
  21. The Law of Legacy can be summed up this way: “…to have any credibility as a leader, you must live what you say you believe. If you want to create a legacy, you need to live it first.” You might not like Trump’s legacy but he lives it – 24/7 and given the popularity of his TV show, there’s a lot of people put there who relate to it. Tick!

So what’s the score for Donald Trump?

I make it 13 out of 21 or 61%, so based on academic assessment criteria, he’s not a distinction student on 75% or better or even a credit student with 65% plus. I suspect George Bush might have done worse and Obama might have been slightly higher but the fact that a sub-credit rated potential politician can be so close to winning the US election, says a lot about the qualities of leaders worldwide nowadays.

It’s interesting to note that someone who looked pretty impressive in David Cameron of the UK was so out of touch with his constituency that he put his job on the line over Brexit and now he’s out of work!

I suspect Hillary would not rate much higher than Trump but I think she’d beat him on the Maxwell test of leadership.

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