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5 Things Donald Trump Can Teach Us About Leadership

October 20, 2015

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is a successful businessman with strong leadership skills. Regardless of your political viewpoint, The Donald has been successful in business and real estate for the last few decades. The business world has known him for years with his real estate success and mainstream America recognizes him for The Apprentice television series. Even more recently, with his decision to run for President, he is a part of popular American culture and discussion.

Because I am a “glass half full” kind of guy I like to research and think about successful people and learn as much as I can from them regardless of whether or not I agree with their ideologies. So what can we learn from Mr. Trump? I think we can learn a lot actually. Here are a few consistent themes that I have taken away from Donald over the years.   

  1. Decision Making – As it relates to his business dealings, Donald Trump appears to have made some good decisions. On the surface, it seems as though he is a bit of a loose cannon, and probably takes great risks. However when you listen to him speak (if you believe him) he is actually very conservative with his business decisions. He tends to buy properties that have less of an upside if they also are a safer choice (i.e., less downside). Taking risks is part of business, but making sure the risks are calculated and you know the upsides and downsides is key.    

Donald Trump Quote – “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.”

  1. Goal Setting – This has been documented to death and for good reason. People who are driven set goals for themselves and many times they set BIG goals and have high expectations for their own performance (and for those around them). Even when they don’t meet their goals they outperform their counterparts who haven’t set any goals. Donald Trump is no different in this regard.  He has high expectations for himself and those around him and that is, at least partially, why he has been able to accomplish so much in his lifetime. Having a clear vision is essential if you want to accomplish big things. 

Donald Trump Quote – “You have to think anyway, so why not think big?”

  1. Confidence – You might argue that Donald Trump is arrogant and could, perhaps, even be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Regardless of your viewpoint though it takes a confident person to be able to lead others effectively. Can you remember the last time you were influenced by someone who lacked confidence? It is a critical part of business, particularly when you are regularly involved in complex negotiations. 

Donald Trump Quote – “Show me someone without an ego, and I'll show you a loser.” 

  1. Labor of Love – Individuals who have likes and dislikes that are in alignment with their job duties have a higher level of something called “motivational fit”. It makes sense that those who have alignment in this area have higher levels of job satisfaction. Donald Trump is no different.  His personality and interests are a perfect match for his various business ventures. He is passionate about what he does and he motivates others around him with that passion. 

Trump Quote – “If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead, make your work more pleasurable.”

  1. Judge of Character – Being able to judge talent is maybe one of the most difficult skill sets to have or master. If you are good at it, you can surround yourself with highly motivated and highly talented people. Although it was for TV, Donald Trump’s show, The Apprentice, was a decent showcase of how he judges talent. Organizational leaders need to be able to hire high performers and also say “You’re fired!” every once in a while when employees are underperforming.

Donald Trump is not that much different than many of the effective leaders in the world. The amount of wealth he has and his personality are definitely differentiators, though. His “in your face” style is off-putting to some but refreshing to others. No matter where you land, the fact remains that Donald Trump has been an effective businessman. We can learn something from everyone, even The Donald. 



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Paul Glatzhofer Paul Glatzhofer is the VP of Talent Solutions based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI Services LLC. He works primarily with organizations that are implementing global assessment and development systems at the leadership level. Paul’s work includes leadership development, leadership skills training, coaching, leadership and executive selection, turnover and ROI analysis, and ongoing feedback development.