Make management great again

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By Craig Nudelman

On 3 November America will hold one of its most important elections in its history.

I know that might seem like a bold claim, but in the past four years, the United States (US) has degenerated under the Trump administration. The white supremacists and radicals, who for eight years had to keep quiet under Obama’s presidency, exploded out of the woodwork and wreaked havoc upon a 224-year-old democracy. Donald J. Trump has ensured that the US is more polarised than it ever has been. Analysts have suggested that the election result will not be called on election night. Instead, it may take days, or even weeks, to determine whether we will see a 46th President of the United States or retain the disgrace of the 45th stain on the oldest democratic nation in the world.

What can we take away from Trump’s lack of adequate leadership and mismanagement? Perhaps we can use it as an opportunity to understand the potentially negative impact of poor management and in turn to motivate ourselves to become better people. This is especially important in a COVID world. The social, economic and political effects of COVID have had irreparable social, economic and political repercussions. Business today is NOT ‘business as usual’, and for organisations to survive and thrive in the future, there is going to need to be a commitment from leaders to put the wellbeing of their people first. I, personally, have been a victim of COVID’s economic effects, having been retrenched from Herzlia after four years of teaching. As such, it is important to question whether leaders have risen to the occasion and tried to create a positive workplace environment during this tough time, or if they have fallen into negative habits and created a workplace which is counterproductive.

There are lots of different ways to judge quality of leadership and management. Two clear red flags are favouritism/nepotism, and when a manager does not take care of their people. I’ll go on to discuss how Trump demonstrates both of these actions. However, more generally, I’m hoping to show that by analysing these two important qualities in a leader, we can learn what steps can we take to become better managers ourselves.

To begin, let’s analyse who Trump surrounds himself with. Nepotism and favouritism is rife within the White House. Christine Adams, writing in The Washington Post, writes about Trump’s need for personal relationships and loyalty. Quoting Philip Bump, a national correspondent for the US elections, she states that Trump’s top speakers and key people will be, “anyone named Trump, anyone who can speak Fox and anyone willing to pay some form of fealty.” She also states that Trump uses his children as the gatekeepers at the White House. To receive an audience with the President, one has to have a “personal connection to his children.”

So too in the workplace, managers who pick favourites tend to create a negative atmosphere among their staff. Fiona Adler, founder of Actioned.com, suggests that there are inevitable people who are similar to their managers and share their interests, culture, values, or work ethic. However, this should never determine who is promoted or whose opinions are placed above others. These actions lead to disengagement and disenchantment within the workplace, with the other staff noticing the unwarranted attention paid to certain individuals. In essence, don’t put someone who has no prior knowledge into a position that is important, à la Jared Kushner.

Trump also does not take care of his people. In a Forbes.com article, Frances Bridge uses organisational psychologist and Professor Adam Grant’s idea that a good leader cares about their employees. Comparing a salesman with good or bad leadership skills, he says, “You hear a lot of, ‘Well I put my customers first.’ The sad thing is that the way you treat your employees actually spills over to affect your customers. So, it’s pretty hard to run a customer friendly organisation if you don’t care about your own employees first and foremost.” Trump has not been nice to the people he has hired. As of October 2020, the turnover for Trump’s ‘A’ Team’ (the most influential positions within the executive office of the president) is 91%, with 65 people being promoted, dismissed or resigning (often under pressure). This is a highest number since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Trump has had four Chiefs of Staff, six Communications Directors, four Press Secretaries, four National Security Advisors and three Directors of Intelligence – which is a pretty astounding turnover in any context.

Caring for one’s employees is multifaceted, but as employees we hope that all managers are committed to this. A lack of empathy, not leading by example, focussing on blame, not supporting your staff, a lack of focus and no respect for employees are all attributes which make for an unhappy workplace and a high turnover of staff. Especially during this time, we need to make sure we take care of staff. If your employees are struggling and you can’t assist them in a helpful way, you can’t have a successful business.

This article will be published two days before the American election. I will be up all night, watching and waiting for something positive to happen. The two key negative management traits that I’ve focused on in this article are just the tip of Trump’s massive iceberg, which will sink America if he is elected for another four years. I hope that we can learn from Trump how NOT to manage the people we work with and this can help us build stronger, kinder, more resilient workplaces in the post-COVID world. I don’t want my daughters to see another four years of a Trump presidency.

Bizrat Hashem, may we welcome Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

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