If you stayed up to watch the results of yesterday's presidential election, it's a night you'll likely remember for a long time. Everyone--perhaps even Donald Trump himself--started the evening expecting Hillary Clinton to win the election.
And everyone was wrong.
Why did Trump win? And what can smart leaders learn from this ever-so-strange election cycle? Here are a few possible answers:
1. The experts know nothing.
In 1948, pollsters got the general election so badly wrong that the Chicago Tribune actually published newspapers with the headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman." (In fact, Harry Truman beat Thomas Dewey to win a second term.)
Polling has become much more sophisticated since then and the number of available polls has multiplied, so you might think big mistakes like that wouldn't happen anymore. But they do. Before yesterday's vote, the biggest debate was between the polling site FiveThirtyEight, which gave Hillary Clinton about two-to-one odds of winning, and The New York Times, which put her chances much higher than that.
Not only that, a whole host of experts advised Trump against doing...well, just about everything he did during his campaign. He mostly didn't listen to them, and right now he's probably happy about that. Keep that in mind next time an "expert" gives you advice but your gut tells you to do the opposite.
2. Being yourself is the best strategy.
With most professional politicians, you get the sense that every word they say has been carefully chosen to project the right image and help them appeal to voters. This is particularly true of Hillary Clinton--and completely untrue of Donald Trump. You get the feeling that he says--and tweets--exactly what he's thinking at all times, and rarely attempts to be politically correct, or to say the things that will make him most popular.
Ironically, it's precisely that lack of carefully crafted political-speak accounts for a lot of Trump's popularity. In a time when people's trust of politicians is at an all-time low, Trump's what-you-see-is-what-you-get style makes him seem much more human than most political candidates. That's a great quality to cultivate, and though saying what you really think may put some people off, it will help you create strong bonds with customers and employees alike.
3. The Establishment is officially dead.
For me, the biggest lesson of this campaign is that it's no longer possible to lead from the top down. Clinton was a top-down candidate. She started as First Lady of Arkansas, then the United States, then a senator from a hugely powerful state, and then secretary of state. She is as deeply entrenched in the power structure of the Democratic Party as it's possible to be.
Trump is a Republican Party outsider, and from the moment he won the nomination, Republican leaders have lamented their inability to somehow stop voters from supporting him. Up until last night, conventional wisdom was that the G.O.P. had shot itself in the foot by choosing him as its candidate. The Democrats had a populist upstart of their own, Bernie Sanders, also seen as a political outsider despite his many years in the Senate. But, unlike their Republican counterparts, Democratic Party leaders succeeded in shutting down his candidacy way before he won the nomination. At the time, it made them seem like the more disciplined, organized party. Now it makes them look pretty foolish, especially since polls at the time suggested he would beat Trump by a wider margin than Clinton would.
There's a lesson there for leaders: The days of telling people what they need are over. You can't manage them from above anymore. In our modern world of social media and instant communication and everyone sharing every opinion all the time, it's time to listen to what people say they need, and take what they say seriously.
Otherwise, you may suddenly find that the people you thought you were leading have already left you far behind.