7 “Presidential” Lessons: Trump Vs. the Mainstream Media
Weekly leadership and professional development lessons seem to be ripe for the taking in the era of the Trump Administration.
This past week, President Trump continued declaring his distrust of the media, hammering the mainstream outlets during his now-infamous first major press conference since assuming the Presidency.
During the presser, which he peppered with more unsubstantiated claims, Trump continued claiming how fake the media was, calling out outlets by name, and picking and choosing which questions he was going to answer by first asking people if their question was a hard one. In one instance, he even called on one reporter but then told the reporter to sit down as he felt the seemingly straightforward and innocuous question about whether or not he would stand up against anti-semitism wasn’t a simple question.
Throughout his time at the podium, he continued to praise his performance to-date as President while castigating anyone who might disagree with the means by which he was (Executive) ordering steps to achieve his own ends.
To add insult to injury, pouring salt on that wound the next day, Trump tweeted that the mainstream media was now the “enemy of the American people.” For that claim he was called out by various lawmakers, political analysts and pundits, including Arizona Republican Senator John McCain stating that silencing the media was a first step toward achieving a dictatorship while Fox News Journalist Chris Wallace confronted Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, responding that it was not for the White House to tell the press what to cover or print.
We may not all reach the office of the U.S. Presidency, work in politics, or have to defend ourselves to a sea of media affiliates and representatives, but, regardless, here are 7 lessons we can take away from Trump’s actions with the media and his over-the-top press conference:
Respect Those You Disagree With
Trump’s Action: He calls out individual networks and publications as fake.
Our Lesson: When a disagreement exists, you need to argue and discredit the information and opposing argument, not just the source. Dismissing the source without dismantling their argument point-by-point does nothing for most of the stakeholders involved. You take the easy, but sloppy, way out by simply trying to take credibility away and disrespecting the source from the get-go.
Respect the Institution
Trump’s Action: He not only targets individual outlets but completely breaks down the overall relationship between his office and the media.
Our Lesson: Aside from respecting each individual party which you might be working with, it is important to respect the institution within which you’re working — in this case, the long-established and respected White House press corps briefings. When in doubt, start with respect and work your changes or strategy in from there.
Take The Good With The Bad
Trump’s Action: He blatantly stated that he was looking for easy and friendly questions, avoiding the heavier, possibly controversial questions.
Our Lesson: You can’t pick and choose what you want to answer. Whether you’re in a leadership position or working your way up to one, there will be times where you’ll have to balance your attack on both easy and hard challenges. No environment is ever going to be always easy. Only selecting to handle that which is easy paints a case that you only want to take the easy road. As a leader, this can be discomforting for stakeholders as they wonder how prepared you are to handle hardships which eventually will come around and which may be out of your control.
Don’t Put Them All in One Basket
Trump’s Action: Beyond dismissing individual outlets and lessening what is the relationship between the Office and the media, he throws all the media in one basket, sparing Fox News.
Our Lesson: Can you really relegate and combine all of your detractors into one group and refer to them as such? They all come from different backgrounds and, as such, take different issues with you and your mission. If you label all your detractors with the same designation, you may be blindsided later by their own specialized arguments about you and strengths they can use to advance their own agenda against you and your interests.
Be Honest & Objective With Yourself (and Don’t Throw Others Under the Bus)
Trump’s Action: He rarely admits lackluster results. Even his electoral claim at the podium was disproved by a reporter in the press field in a matter of minutes, to which Trump responded that someone had just given him that information.
Our Lesson: Be as prepared as possible when speaking. Qualify information if unsure, or say you’ll get back to someone with the information you might not have handy at the moment. And don’t blame anyone else for information YOU’VE provided. It’s on you to check the information’s validity before conveying its claim.
Don’t Be a Hypocrite
Trump’s Action: He’s flip-flopped on leaks. He complained about the press’s fascination with the information in a leak regarding possible communications with Russia by the Trump campaign in the lead-up to the election instead of the leak itself while during the election cycle he pushed that the leaking of the Clinton campaign emails didn’t matter, that everyone should look at the content.
Our Lesson: You can’t only chastise actions when they don’t apply to you and praise them when they do. It’s as simple as that. Hypocrisy, especially hypocrisy that is so blatant, ruins your credibility.
Once You’ve Won, Let Go
Trump’s Action: He continued basking in this election win and bragging about how badly he beat his opponent.
Our Lesson: Take your win and move on. Bragging about your win only takes away from the mission at-hand. It draws attention and energy away from the ability to build up that mission and get to work.
Yes, the seven lessons outlined above are completely obvious due the eccentricity of Trumps’ presidency, but it isn’t the level or strength of the action, but the underlying lesson itself that is transferable to our own experiences. Regardless of how extreme his examples might be, there is something we can bring down to our more simplistic level.
Will there always be supporters who throw their weight behind someone who might act in such a way? Of course! Regardless of the unrelenting ferocity you might have in the ranks of your supporters, it is always better to err on the side of caution and approach your detractors in a strategic, forward-thinking, and fair manner. Approaching a relationship with these attitudes in mind does not convey weakness so there’s no need to come out of the gate beating your chest and screaming.
None of this is to say that there can be no disagreement or detractors. Even under the guise of Trump’s self-described “draining the swamp” push for changing Washington, there is a way to change the way things are done without completely disrespecting and lambasting parties which may exist in that ecosystem you’re trying to change.
This post is not meant to endorse any particular position or approach but is merely meant to ask, setting emotion aside, How fair can I be with others in order to build and reinforce my own credibility?