Donald Trump and Leadership


Since Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency, he has regularly attacked politicians as incompetent. Republican and Democratic politicians alike have been excoriated by Trump with Hillary Clinton receiving his toughest criticisms for her work as Secretary of State. When he becomes president, Trump argues, he will clean up the domestic and foreign policy messes because of his competent leadership.

Trump and his surrogates routinely tout the business successes of Donald Trump, including his competence at everything from operating a piece of heavy equipment on a job site to negotiating a deal. Convention speakers from the business world have consistently praised Trump’s competence in all business matters and make the claim that this will make Trump an effective president.

The convention itself, both in terms of planning and execution, should give voters pause about Trump’s premise that he is the most competent person to lead the country and that other leaders, particularly Hillary Clinton, lack both the character and competence to fix the country’s problems.

Last Saturday Governor Mike Pence was named as Donald Trump’s running mate. At the same time stories were circulating in the media that Trump had second thoughts about Pence as late as midnight the night before he was named as his running mate. This decision, long considered to be the first important decision made by the presumptive nominee should have been an easy one for Trump who has been proclaimed to be an excellent judge of talent in the business world and someone whose visibility was enhanced by his long-running reality show “The Apprentice” in which he chose a strong leader for the Trump Organization.


Once the convention began, the behaviors of Trump and those close to him again raise questions of his competence as a leader. On Monday, Melanie Trump’s speech which plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 address and was written by Trump Organization employee Meredith McIver demonstrated the basic inattention to detail by Trump and his people that should signal problems should a Trump administration take office.

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, waves before speaking at the Republican National Convention, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The invitation to Ted Cruz to speak at the Republican Convention without a promise of an official endorsement demonstrates Trump’s lack of understanding about politics, but also poor managerial competence. Cruz’s blatant snub of Trump was troubling itself, but considering that the Trump team had his speech text two hours prior to the address and neither Trump or his people intervened is inexcusable for an event that was supposed to project party unity.

There are other examples of incompetence in terms of executing the convention, such as the selection of poor speakers or a schedule that simply dragged and deflated delegates and guests alike. For a candidate who wants to shake up the political system, the 2016 Republican Convention seemed like a poor rendition of previous conventions.

At some point in the presidential campaign, voters, including Trump supporters, must address whether the rhetoric of Trump’s competence as a leader matches the reality of his inattention to detail, poor planning, poor management of employees, and other characteristics that people use to judge this quality.


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