Donald Trump the businessman spent decades building a management team comprised mostly of relatives and close associates to run the Trump Organization. Although Mr. Trump tends to boast of his success, the success of his business empire is actually the success of his management team and the teams within the Trump Organization. Despite the difficulty of dealing with his controversial outbursts, his chaotic approach to management, and his reactionary leadership style, the people within his leadership team learned to tap each others’ strengths and compensate for each others’ weaknesses in order to function. It was Trump’s embrace of team leadership that allowed him, his children, and his business associates to thrive.
Donald Trump the President, in contrast, has struggled to build his leadership teams. Not only has the Trump Administration been plagued with a significant number of vacancies, there is a growing list of officials exiting the White House. Amid accusations of nepotism, daughter Ivanka Trump, who remains a beneficiary of the Trump Organization, and son-in-law Jared Kashner, who faces his own scandals, could be forced from playing any role in the White House. Mr. Trump was so accustom and so reliant on his business leadership team that he opted to transplant his business associates into his Presidency. Where Trump’s business leadership teams spent decades honing their skills to function in the real estate environment and developing their relationships with the President, their lack of policy experience and expertise has hobbled their ability to function as an effective leadership team in government.
It would seem President Trump was able to build his business leadership team, because he had a durable connection to his children and trusted associates. Absent the loyalty close relationships tend to afford, it appears President Trump is unable to recreate the team leadership approach that was key to his business success. To be successful, however, Donald Trump, as well as other political and business leaders, need to embrace team leadership. They need to recognize their success is the product of the teams that support them. In turn, they need to recognize teams must be composed of more than just loyal relatives and associates. Success in business and politics relies on layers of teams within layers of teams. To achieve success with team leadership, leaders must, first, understand what team leadership actually means.
A leadership team is a team composed of those who help a leader succeed. A leadership team must incorporate those who can compensate for what the leaders cannot do, those who can offer insights, those who can recognize and correct issues that arise, and those who can be leaders of other teams. A practitioner of team leadership is the head of a round table. All members of the leadership circle are given the freedom of equal input. Some of these leaders are leaders of their own leadership or support teams. Their membership in multiple circles helps create a leadership chain, which allows the highest leadership to control an organization. The larger and the more complicated an organization is, the longer the leadership chain.
When the Trump name was removed from the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, it was the result of a dispute between the Trump Organization and the building owners. There were many issues involved in the dispute, but there was also a clear divine between the Trump Organization and owners. In other words, the leadership chain was broken, because the leadership circles were separated. As a consequence, the leader team for the building complex could not come together and create a consensus resolution to their conflicting interests. The Trump White House also has a broken leadership chain. There are plenty of team leaders and support teams within government, but the top leadership is disconnected from the rest of the Executive Branch as well as the Legislative Branch. Donald Trump may have achieved victory in the 2016 Presidential Election thanks, in part, to his divisive ways, but he needs to reembrace team leadership in order to achieve success in government.
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