Over the years, I’ve had a number of bosses, both good and bad, as well as a lot of time being the boss. Anyone who has listened to President Trump over the past few years has seen the chaos in his administration. From just an overview in the recent Mueller report, it’s apparent that the White House is more like a version of some fictional royal courts, with courtiers vying to see who can gain influence, or avoid falling afoul of Trump’s displeasure. He mirrors the traits of the worst bosses I’ve had, with none of the traits of my good bosses. What’s apparent to me is that Trump never learned the lessons I did along the way. Like what?
1. You are not always the smartest person in the room, and that’s OK. Consider that Trump has to tell you that he’s a “stable genius,” and that he has said that you should never hire people who are smarter than you are. I’m considered to be fairly intelligent, but I learned that the hard way early on in my professional life that I’m not always going to the smartest person in the room. I went into my first job out of college thinking I was going to dazzle everyone with my brilliance, only to find out that the people I was working with were literally the world experts in their field. I’ve also had experience being in charge of people who were absolute geniuses. Intimidating? A little, but while I often had to run to keep within shouting distance, and sometimes it was annoying, but it was also a lot easier to work with them.
2. You don’t know more than the experts. To become an expert requires a lot of study and time in your field. As I pointed out above, I’ve worked with people who were experts in their fields, and as a result of that, I came away with a great respect for what they knew. I didn’t think I knew more than they did about their field, and I knew enough to listen to, and learn from them. Now think of Trump bragging about how he knows more than the generals about the military as an example. Unlike him, I’ve been in the military and I don’t think I know more than generals about it. It’s not the only time he’s said he knows more than the experts, and failed to listen to them.
3. Loyalty is a two way street. One of the constants in the coverage of the Trump presidency has been that he demands absolute loyalty to him from his staff and administration officials. There have been many stories about that, and numerous times he has tweeted his fury at some perceived disloyalty on their part. But along with those are an equal number of stories where he has insulting his administration staff and officials, mistreated them, blamed them for his missteps, or attacked them on their way out the door. He’s demonstrated that he has no loyalty to his staff or his administration, only to himself. I learned long ago that if you want loyalty from others, you have to be loyal in return.
4. Being the boss doesn’t mean getting the credit, it means taking the blame. Let’s be honest, we all like to get compliments and receive plaudits for something we’ve done. We all hate getting blamed for things, particularly when it wasn’t our fault. But that’s “part of the job” when you’re a boss. You share the credit when things go well, and you take the blame when they don’t. Trump never admits that he made a mistake, that he was wrong, or not to blame – even when it’s true. It’s always someone else’s fault. He’s perfectly willing to claim sole credit when something goes well, but never will take the blame.
Those are the big lessons I’ve learned along the way that Donald Trump never did. It’s why I said that he mirrors the qualities of the worst bosses I’ve ever had. I may not be President, I may not be wealthy, but I will say that I’m a better boss than he ever was, or will be.