Author Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White,” was essentially able to gain access to the inner-workings of the fledgling Trump Presidency by appealing to the President’s ego and the drive of those around him to feed his ego. Not only did Michael Wolff embarrass members of the Trump Administration with a damning investigation, his prolonged and unquestioned loitering in the White House exposed a lack of scrutiny and security within the Trump Administration. Where revelations of this nature would be troubling for any administration, whether current or former, they undermine trust and confidence in the young Presidency.
For Trump supporters, however, Wolff’s revelations, like most Trump scandals, are easily dismissed as “fake news” fabricated by an opportunist lair and fraud trying to get rich. Alternatively, his staff failed or sabotaged him. In the eyes of supporters, Trump is untouchable, until he falters on a key cause or issue they care about. As long as Donald Trump defies all logic, facts, and sensibility in order to exalt the causes and positions his supporters embrace, there is no wrong too wrong for him. For everyone else, Wolff provides juicy political gossip. From a serious perspective, his revelations are deeply troubling for reasons that go beyond scrutiny and security.
Assuming the issues raised by Wolff have been addressed, or will be addressed, by the maturing Trump Administration, Wolff unveiled something that cannot be addressed with increased scrutiny and security. Wolff gained access to the inner workings of the Trump Administration by simply offering the President flattery. If Wolff had simply “conned” Trump or a small group of his team, there would be a problem. What makes the Wolff revelations so problematic is that Wolff gamed the management style of Trump. Donald Trump is an intuitive person who considers personal fidelity to him as a top qualification and goal. Wolff simply used Trump’s own bias to his advantage.
In the Trump organization, “doing your job” means pleasing Donald Trump. Performance is based on Trump’s personal satisfactions with an individual, not a job well done. Obviously, Donald Trump is not the only businessman to embrace such a subjective, emotional, egocentric, and largely dysfunctional approach to business, but he became the US President. Because Trump offers an incentive for his subordinates to stroke his ego and cater to his whims, he has trained them to support anything that will buy them favor in his eyes and avoid anything that will place them on his bad side. In other words, they want him to hear what he wants to hear and silence anything that he does not want to hear.
Michael Wolff offered Trump positive publicity. Through his alleged close ties with Trump, Wolff simply had to offer Trump’s staff a chance to acquire their boss the positive attention he coveted and/or avoid upsetting the President by offending his associate. Just like anyone else in a leadership position, Trump’s overreliance on personal relationships creates the potential for massive abuse on behalf of leadership and those who seek to exploit the weaknesses of leadership. This is why modern corporations and government attempt to use more objective management styles and measures rather subjective measures based on personal preferences.
That said, Donald Trump is not going to change his leadership style. He would, however, be wise to retool how he evaluates the performance of his subordinates, so he is no longer cultivating a highly exploitable work environment. He should also surround himself with those who are willing to correct him when he is wrong and offer him constructive criticism. “Yes men,” who simply regurgitate the good ideas of other people and the bad ideas of their bosses, may be highly sought-after and well paid, but they blind leadership to problems. A President’s job is to fix problems, so a president needs a support team that helps him recognize a problem before it become a problem, not cozy up to it. Michael Wolff was a problem.
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