I refuse to get political when it comes to business writing. It just doesn't work for me, because I am genuinely open to all opinions and viewpoints. If I start suggesting that I will only purchase goods and services from a Democrat or a Republican, or only listen to your pitch if you agree with my political view, I have draw a line in the sand that doesn't really make sense. Honestly, many of the ideas I like to write about--such as leadership, mentoring, and productivity--are applicable to any political view.
But I have to take issue when it comes to the debate about letting people from one religious group enter the United States. There is a resounding cry of alarm on this topic, and rightly so. It came to light this week when presidential hopeful Donald Trump said he would block Muslims from entering the country as a way to deter terrorists. I've served as a leader in business and studied leadership for decades, and I've never seen someone make such an outlandish, impractical, and downright persecutory comment before. I'm happy to live in a country where people can express their viewpoints; that doesn't mean we need to put up with them.
There's an underlying problem here. Donald Trump has revealed he is not acting like a leader. He is acting like a dictator. There's a key difference. For anyone who wants to lead, you have to be willing to set aside your personal agenda. Leadership implies that you have followers. To be an effective leader, you have to look behind you once in awhile and check on the welfare of your followers. You have to care more about the masses and where they all end up when you lead them rather than where you end up. You have to open to the possibility that, as everyone behind you stumbles and falls, it could have something to do with your inability to lead them.
A dictator doesn't care about those issues. Think of someone like Kim Jong-un from North Korea who, from all accounts, is letting his own people starve to death. That's not leadership. A dictator removes himself or herself from the crowd and, like President Snow in the The Hunger Games, lives in isolation and eats dinner in a grand ballroom. A dictator like Adolf Hitler had a personal agenda to promote himself above the people (that's why if you didn't salute him you could be killed) and to further his own mistaken ideology more than society itself.
Think of the two words "dictate" and "lead" for a moment. For anyone who wants to be in charge of people in business (or in the political spectrum), when you dictate you point fingers, you command, and you ignore feedback. When you lead, you look behind you. You determine the needs of the people following you and then attempt to achieve an objective together. Great leaders always look behind them.
Two of my favorite books on this subject hit home the point. One is called Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. The second is Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Both make similar points. Leadership is not a dictatorial role. When you are constantly dictating, it means you are not listening, because the human brain is incapable of speaking and listening at the same time. It also means you are serving, because if you want to lead people you have to serve them. We don't follow dictators who do not serve unless it involves the threat of imprisonment or worse. When a leader shows us he or she cares, listens to our concerns, seeks feedback, and even drops the attitude and gets involved in a project, we will follow.
Dictators suddenly announce how they will build walls and block religious groups. They live in an ivory tower and make commands from on high. They are divisive and angry. They rule with an iron fist instead of the soft touch that comes from being part of a team. And, in most cases, they eventually come to ruin.
OK, share your own thoughts. Do you agree or disagree? Are you a Trump supporter who sees him as a leader and not a dictator? I am interested to hear your rebuttal. Just post in comments or on my Twitter feed.