Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership is about more than just ego: an open letter to President Trump

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on February 11, 2018

Dear Mr. President,

I find myself writing this brief note while thinking of your still recent first State of the Union Address, as delivered in person to a joint session of the United States Congress, but as delivered in fact to the world. More specifically, I write this thinking back to your angry and I have to add petty reaction, when members of Congress who have found themselves appalled by your disconnected and divisive policies and pronouncements chose not to applaud as your more ardent supporters did. You called them traitors for not joining in, and for not proclaiming your many self-professed virtues. But you are the President of the United States and that responsibility held is not, or at least should not entirely be about you.

I just took a quick count of postings on this blog that contain the word leadership in their titles, restricting myself to my (as of now) four directory pages that fall under a Business Strategy and Operations rubric. And I found a total of 69 of them; I have written on the topic of leadership and what goes into it elsewhere in this overall endeavor too, but that accounting should be sufficient to indicate that I have thought a great deal about what does and does not make leaders effective and leadership work.

As noted in that mix, I have written this succession of thought pieces on the basis of experience: my own direct experience and my own learning curve in this, and from having witnessed others as they sought to lead others more effectively too. And some of those leaders and would-be leaders have inspired me for how well they have assumed leadership responsibilities. And some have taught me valuable lessons from how they have limited and even thwarted themselves in this, and generally for what is essentially some single underlying specific reason and in some specific way, that can be learned from by others for its consequences.

I offer this here as an open letter to you, knowing full well that you will never see it. And even if by chance you did, you would skim it briefly and dismiss it out of hand as being politically partisan and representative of “fake news.” But I add this to my collection of short essay perspectives on leadership and on what that means, because your approach to this has so wide ranging and damaging an impact when carried out by someone in your position of authority, and for so many. What is the basic question: the basic issue that I would address here as representing one more take on my part, on what good leadership is?

• Leadership is about organizing and collectively enabling others, and even a diversity of others who might otherwise disagree, in achieving shared goals. It is and cannot be about self and ego.

When you make yourself the defining source of value, and you make your needs: short-term only included, the goal, you diminish yourself, and the office of the presidency and this nation as a whole. I know this is going to sound harsh but maybe, just maybe you should read a little and not just from alt-right sources with an eye towards self-vindication. Start, for purposes of this brief discussion, with the United States Constitution and with its Bill of Rights in particular. Start in fact with that brief little note in it about freedom of speech. That, of necessity includes applause as a form of speech, and silence in that as a message shared too.

• You are not and cannot be a leader, regardless of title or position of responsibility held, if your ego and your self-identified needs and preferences are the only litmus test of what should and should not be done, and by you and by all others.

This perhaps just-fleeting incident that I address here, is emblematic of your professional life and of your political life too. So I do not see you as capable of change. Prove me wrong! I would love to find myself in a position of having to write a retraction here, acknowledging that you can, and that you have in some real sense begun to grow into the job you now hold. But you simply seem to be shifting around in it, in uncomfortable disorder as if you were seeking to walk in shoes many times too large for your feet. Make your being President, more about others: all others in this nation, and about serving their needs and less – a lot less about yourself and your all too vein prerogatives. And allow for others to remain silent when you speak, just as you allow and even extol the virtues of your partisan supporters for doing so as your political opponents speak out. If you could do that, those shoes might start to fit better.

Sincerely, and with hopeful intent,

Timothy Platt, Ph.D.

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