He just said Hillary Clinton was 'disgusting' when she took a break during the Democratic debate and used a sexually explicit term to describe her loss to Barack Obama in 2008. He's been called a Hitler-like figure. And, I've made it pretty clear his pronouncements about blocking one particular religious group from entering the U.S. is a really bad idea. Yet, even if you absolutely hate his revolting comments, there's a lot you can learn about leadership from him. (Mostly, it's what you shouldn't do.)
1. Talk big...but follow through
I read a Washington Times report about how people like to follow those who talk big. That seems to be one secret to Trump's success, according to the report. Maybe it's because we want to follow someone who is confident or who makes bold claims. Maybe it has more to do with our own insecurities about what we can accomplish and want someone else to carry the big stick and figure things out because we're too lazy. Yet, there is a lesson here. Talking big is not a bad thing if you can actually follow through on your claims. It seems to be working for Trump, even though pundits in both political parties say most of what he is saying is impossible.
2. Simplify...but do it correctly
I take issue at most of what Trump says, especially when it comes to immigration. It's a complex problem, and erecting walls and blocking passports based on your religious persuasion when that isn't even listed just won't work. Yet, as the same WP report noted, people like to follow someone who explains complex issues in understandable terms. Life is short; most of us don't have time to figure out how to do a "reverse spin" or hire dozens of people for technical roles. We like to leave those things to the boss and stick with our own area of expertise. Again, the secret here is to simplify correctly. Albert Einstein said it best: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Your staff is expecting you to explain complexity in a way that makes sense; just make sure your explanation is accurate.
3. Play the figurehead...and then actually lead
I'm not saying every figurehead is genuine. There's something terribly wrong with a leader who just pretends to have power and pretends to have answers. Yet, I've also seen how the best leaders accept the fact that they need to play a role. People want to follow someone who is "larger than life" and talks with conviction. A mousy leader who squirrels away in a corner office isn't going to win any converts to a cause or destroy the competition. One reason Trump is so popular is simply that he is acting like a leader. Don't just make it an act, though. It's OK to realize you need to be the one who gets up in front of the crowd and who comes up with the big ideas. Just make sure that you can actually deliver on those promises eventually.