Donald Trump’s Leadership Style – Use At Your Own Risk

In this week’s GOP Presidential Nomination Debate, Donald Trump shared an interesting look into his leadership philosophy. If you missed it, take a look for yourself:

This is not a political commentary or endorsement of a particular political position. It’s a few observations about a philosophy of leadership that many people believe is still effective in the 21st century despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

The philosophy is essentially this: I’m the leader so you do what I say.

What are the beliefs and implications behind that philosophy? A few include:

  • The leader is smarter than anyone else.
  • The leader has all the answers.
  • The leader has more power than anyone else.
  • The leader is in absolute control.
  • Don’t question the leader.
  • Followers don’t need to think for themselves. Just follow the leader.
  • Command and control leadership is the best way to lead.

It’s certainly one way to lead and it will undoubtedly produce results. You’re likely to achieve:

  • Compliance, rather than cooperation or collaboration.
  • People checking their brains at the door.
  • Less creativity and innovation.
  • Low or no trust in leadership.
  • Poor morale and low engagement.
  • Bad customer service.

Apparently it’s worked for The Donald over the years and it might be right for you, too. The choice is yours. Use at your own risk.

12 Comments on “Donald Trump’s Leadership Style – Use At Your Own Risk

  1. Hi Randy
    This is a brilliant article. I am following the debates and Mr Trump’s “leadership” style and everything I read on it and see in the interviews reminds me to the European Middle Age. Charlemagne used to reign like this and it might have been the right thing in the 9th century. But I doubt if the US of the 21 century can still afford this. Personally, I believe that a leader is a “primus inter pares” – meaning that he or she might be the head of an organisation but one gives away a lot if they do not listen to their staff. After all, they know a lot, too.
    Have a great week.

    • Thank you Brigitte! You’re right…this leadership style might be more appropriate for the 9th century!

      Hope you’re doing well,


  2. I completely agree with this way of thinking on the other side I believe that a great example of great servant leader quite sensitive on blending diversity i Justin Trudeau.
    What is your opinion about?

    • Thanks for your comments Irene. I’m not very familiar with Trudeau’s leadership style but my general impression is that it comes from a place of authenticity.


  3. I disagree. That is undermining the intelligence of the American people. I am a very educated woman, and I know my limitations therefore in my vote for Donald Trump i don’t see him as the answer I see him as smart enough to know he doesn’t have all the answers. and that he will delegate to get things done. I don’t ever feel like he is talking down to the voter, what I do hear is getting the best minds together. I hate to remind you that he isn’t where he is by being an idiot. You have to look at other aspects of Donald Trump, say his amazing children. Who by all accounts are humble individuals even though they grew up in extreme privilege. He has done many things right. The old adage, more than one way to skin a cat applies. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with every thing that comes out of his mouth, but when it comes to leadership I believe him to be smart enough to know his limitations, hence delegation. I’ve always believed that the best way to be a great leader is to let those around you shine, that will speak of his leadership and thus far it has.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.


      • I agree. I am looking forward to it. I will say there are things that he says and does that I wish I could be right next to him and say,”Not good Donald”, but I will tell you that the reason he does get a pass is because we are seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly and we are Ok with it. I think fundamentally he is a good person, flawed like all of us, but a good person nonetheless.

  4. I’m just writing about Dan Pink’s book Drive, which has a lot to say about the challenges you face with engagement if you use Trump’s style.

  5. Randy, I absolutely agree that he shows some traits of transactional leadership, which is what you elude to. Many leaders do. But I would also tell you that he shows traits of transformational leadership as well. You cannot build an empire and be as successful as he has become without surrounding oneself with smart individuals, listening to their input, and making a decision for the outcome of the good. You cannot be so narrow minded as to only see one small snippet and claim that this is his entire leadership style. He would not be where he is today if that was the case.

    • Scott and/or Randy, I am curious where you, “Leading with Trust” or “other leadership consulting companies” like Blanchard, stand on Trump’s leadership style today – 7 years after your comment and after 4 years of Trump and his administration’s lies, smearing every opponent, constant personnel turnovers, insurrection and Trump’s blatant disregard for the oath he swore to US Constitution before the citizens of the United States during his inauguration. . . Donald has always surrounded himself and his family with notorious “smart” individuals and also with con men – starting with Roy Cohn, followed by a never-ending list of mob bosses, sexual deviants, Mafia and Cosa Nostra figures, and like-minded corrupt criminal institutions and individuals . . . The list of brilliant brutes, moral and ethical losers, self-serving millionaires, corrupt billionaires, Russian oligarchs, multinational corporations, etc, etc.. . . Your viewpoint in the comment above is misleading. It is not an adequate or constructive leadership model for democracy in Sept 2023 and might be a better fit for an authoritarian form of government – like Benito Mussolini was building – or the leadership within organized crime – like Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, the leader of the notorious Cosa Nostra organized crime group. Rocco Morabito, a leader in the powerful ‘Ndrangheta Mafia group, and Bernardo Provenzano, another Cosa Nostra boss. . .
      I wonder how you feel about your comment today.

      • Hello!

        My apologies for not responding sooner. My personal opinion is Donald Trump’s modus operandi is a perfect example of what NOT to do as a leader. That belief is not rooted in any political ideology, but rather in common human decency, integrity, and the ideals of servant leadership. Unfortunately, he’s not alone in that regard. Many of our political leaders have lost sight of the higher aspirations of public service, and instead have resorted to being self-serving leaders. We are in desperate need of a new approach to leadership–approach that is grounded in trust, service, and putting the needs of those you serve ahead of your own.

        Thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion.


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