The continuing Revolving Door Policy of the Trump Administration has thrown the systemic failure of Alexandrian leadership – leadership from the front – into sharp relief.
President Donald J. Trumpet has surrounded himself with Trumpettes – yes-men and, to a lesser extent, yes-women – and distanced himself from the No, No, Nanettes. Which is odd, considering his professed love of chaos. Wouldn’t you want some tension, some conflict?
What I think you want in the end is to hire the best person you can for the job. Yes, of course, you don’t want a backstabber. But you don’t need a cheerleader either.
Rather you need someone who can do the particular task at hand, whom you can rely on to back you when you’re right and tell you when you’re wrong. And if that someone is smarter or more talented, what do you care? Rather than diminishing you, having smart employees and colleagues makes you look good for selecting them. Consider Alexander the Great, who loved having strong women around him. OK, he grew up with women who were no wallflowers. But his stance said, “I’m so powerful, I can afford to be generous.”
But Trump is one of those fearful, resentful people – they tend to be close-minded, conservative types – who believe that if others succeed, he loses. (This would explain their protectionist policies. Let’s put tariffs on everyone with nary a thought to the tariffs that others will impose on us or whether or not related industries at home, to say nothing of the stock market and consumers, will be hurt.) Because he’s so dog in the manger, Trump’s not a nurturer of talent the way George Washington was with Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette. Nor is he comfortable with a team of rivals the way Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama was. No. Trump’s more of a ridiculer of rivals, a destroyer of talent. Note how Attorney General Jeff Sessions – often the subject of Trump’s wrath – has just fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, a favorite Trump whipping boy, two days before he was set to retire. This way, he can’t collect his full government pension. People, that’s vindictiveness. And all because Trump’s a narcissist with a hugely damaged ego.
To be sure there are egotists who are accomplished and have leadership potential. Consider Roger Federer whose demeanor implies a takeoff on the old Chevy Chase routine: “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not.” “I’m Roger Federer, and you’re not.” He’s been known to throw teammates under the bus – Stan Wawrinka anyone? – and on more than one occasion he attributed a rival’s success against him to luck. (Novak Djokovic anyone?) But make no mistake about it: For all his superciliousness, Federer has combined great talent with brains and discipline, resulting in singular achievement. You can’t s the same about Trump, the developer as blowhard.
What to do with a narcissistic leader? You can try to appeal to him to do good by appealing to his vanity. And you can either flatter him or keep him at bay long enough to convince him that your ideas are really his own. (See Burt Lancaster’s Odysseus-like sergeant in “From Here to Eternity,” who makes his terrible captain look good by running their Army company while giving the captain his due.) Or you can try to go around the narcissist or take him on directly. No matter your option, be prepared to risk your health, life and, possibly, you’re very soul. You’re better off getting out.
And so back to the Revolving Door, which has now admitted the potential first female head of the CIA, Gina Haspet, a woman who gets high marks as a company woman, which means she signed off on torture. The way women have gotten ahead in government or corporations has been by being female men. Look at Aung San Suu Kyi, the so-called democratic leader of Myanmar who has done nothing to stop the genocide of the Muslim Rohingya in that Buddhist nation. She’s not advancing the cause of women’s leadership.
Might Hillary have done so? Some of Clinton’s most ardent haters are now thinking she would’ve been better than Trump. She certainly would’ve stood up to Vladdie Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin – hacker of emails, disrupter of elections, poisoner of people and potential disturber of electrical grids and water supplies. For that task, Trump has left the heavy lifting to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
When it comes to leadership roles, women are going to have to learn to chart their own course – else they’ll wind up like the “strongmen” who are really weak.