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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

Leadership Lessons from the Rise of Donald Trump

His hair is legendary.  He has an ego the size of the Grand Canyon.  He might possibly be the next President of the United States.  He’s definitely making waves.  His name is Donald J. Trump, and the enormity of his wealth is only surpassed by the Trumposity of his personality.

Let me start by saying this is no endorsement.  I didn’t vote for him, and frankly, find the thought rather disgusting.  But whatever you think of him politically, his candidacy has generated more buzz and traction than anything in recent memory.  There is a long list of pundits and bloggers who are astounded at his ability to transcend accepted political wisdom.

I’m not getting political in this post.  I’m not going to talk about how to stop him, or talk about his faults & failings.  I have only one question.


Clearly, he’s tapped into something.  Why?

What’s he doing, and what can we learn from it?

No doubt, the analysts will argue about it for years.  But here’s my list.

Note: These observations are amoral.  A case could be made that the following things are what dictators or fascists do as well.  But for this post, I’m concerned ONLY with the leadership observations, not the morality of their uses.

1. Simple communication.

Have you listened to this guy talk?  Not with a mind to argue, but listening to what he does as a communicator.  He almost completely eschews words like “eschews.”  He communicates almost entirely in punchy, short, Anglo-Saxon words.

  1. It’s going to be huge. 

  2. He’s just great.

  3. I’m really rich.

  4. The guy’s a loser. He’s a horrible person.

  5. We’re going to fix it.

  6. It’s going to be big. It’s going to be really special.

Listening to Trump, my first thought was “This guy can’t communicate his way out of a wet paper bag.”  But as I’ve listened, I think I was wrong.  I think he is communicating for a particular kind of person.  Like it or not, the fruits of the public school system for the last 50 years have not given us people who are comfortable reading abstract thought laced with heavy Latin-rooted words.

In today’s culture, the simpler thoughts and expressions are often better received.

Leaders, know your audience.  Trump does.

I once saw a pastor’s Easter sermon entitled “The Life of Jesus: An Interminable Saga.”  Those are wonderful words.  Saga.  Seriously, what a great word.  But do they communicate?

2. Fearless communication.

Trump’s followers don’t follow because his ideas are great.  Just ask them!  Many don’t even know what his ideas ARE.  They follow because his ideas (few though they be) are boldly communicated.

They follow because he shows a public image of fearlessness.

Trump’s followers are afraid, and they have been longing for someone to lead them — who isn’t.

#Trump’s followers are afraid, & they have been longing for someone to lead them — who ISN’T.

They are tired of political correctness… of “men” who use polls to choose their beliefs, focus-group the life out of it, and then communicate it in such a way that if it becomes unpopular later, they can deny that’s what they meant!

Leaders, don’t miss this.  A massaged, neutered message doesn’t resonate with people!

If you’ve never watched Taylor Mali’s piece of “slam poetry” called “Like, Totally, Whatever,” you MUST watch it. Pastor, this is best 3 minutes you will spend today.

Certainty!  Conviction!  This is why Trump is leading.

People are starved for it!

Leaders with certainty will make enemies, but they will also have people who follow.

Leaders with certainty will make enemies, but they will also have people who follow.

Don’t be afraid of people who will not follow.  Don’t be so desperate for likes that you become generic.

Now, go be bold in your leadership.

In the comments below, tell me why you think Trump is leading.  But be kind.  Profanity and vitriol will not be approved.  I’m not Donald Trump. 🙂

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