If I Could Coach Donald Trump

Written by Dena Lefkowitz. Originally posted on "The Huffington Post."

If I Could Coach Donald Trump

Trump, like all of us, can change and actually become more effective a leader. But transformation doesn’t magically happen without awareness.

They want to like him, they really, really do. But stalwarts of the Grand Old Party – unlike the Nike slogan – just can’t do it. Their visceral verbiage indicates an intense, internal personal struggle between party and principles.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he “cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump.” Governor Christie Todd Whitman (R) of New Jersey said “I won’t, I can’t.” Scan the headlines at any given moment over the last few weeks and you will see Republicans calling Trump a bully, a bigot, a misogynist. And, following the tragedy in Orlando, more are distancing themselves from the billionaire businessman. At this point in the political cycle, politicians usually offer full-throated support to their candidate, as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who has differed with Hillary Clinton in the past, is doing. Instead, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has found himself in a quagmire due to Trump’s racial comments about federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who Trump said couldn’t be impartial because of his heritage and doing damage control over Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from coming to the United States following the Orlando shootings. Why does it matter what the party thinks when the public seems to love him? Trump’s popularity cannot provide him with sufficient capital to do whatever he wants if he wins the election. As Barack Obama could tell him: without the cooperation of the Senate and House of Representatives, nothing moves. As president, Trump cannot implement his agenda or simply yell “you’re fired” to those who oppose him.

Why does it matter what the party thinks when the public seems to love him? Trump’s popularity cannot provide him with sufficient capital to do whatever he wants if he wins the election. As Barack Obama could tell him: without the cooperation of the Senate and House of Representatives, nothing moves. As president, Trump cannot implement his agenda or simply yell “you’re fired” to those who oppose him. The truth is that many leaders,

The truth is that many leaders, lawyers and chief executives are much like Trump. When it comes to judging their own leadership skills, many leaders have on blinders that not only prevent honest analysis of how they are perceived, these blind spots hurt the bottom line: business. I’ve seen this over and over again in my work as a professional coach. We all have blind spots that, when addressed, make good leaders great. Unaddressed, they hinder effectiveness whether one is running a country, a business or a family. This isn’t just about being nicer – it’s about being smarter about the bottom line. Like it or not, most of us have had Trump moments when pressures mount and we say things that hurt others and ourselves.

Trump may say he’s just good on his feet, but there’s a difference between that and consistently alienating people whose support is required to get the job and get the job done. What I see in Trump’s behavior isn’t speaking off the cuff, rather we are witnessing repeated emotional hijackings, as described by psychologist Dr. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D in his book “Emotional Intelligence.”

Inside our brain, sits a warehouse of emotional memory, known as amygdala. Absent awareness, practice and effort, it can beat our strategic brain to the finish line in coming to a decision. “Incoming signals from the senses let the amygdala scan every experience for trouble. This puts the amygdala in a powerful post in mental life, something like a psychological sentinel, challenging every situation, every perception, with but one kind of question in mind, the most primitive: ‘Is this something I hate? That hurts me? Something I fear?’ If so – if the moment at hand somehow draws a ‘yes’- the amygdala reacts instantaneously, like a neural tripwire, telegraphing a message of crisis to all parts of the brain.” Feeling precedes thought and an immediate, inappropriate response occurs.”

Trump, though, like all of us, can change and actually become more effective a leader. But transformation doesn’t magically happen without awareness. It takes persistent effort. Coaching steps into the breach between a goal and obstacles, particularly when a leader is getting in his or her own way.

If I had the chance to coach Trump, here’s what I would ask him to try:

1. Pause before reacting. Choose your response rather than getting carried away by an initial emotional response. Take a deep breath.
2. Reflect on what is behind the emotion. Is there a threat? Is it a true threat or is it your ego?
3. Choose appropriate thoughts or actions that will make for the most favorable outcome.

In real terms, it would look like this: When a reporter asked Trump about the lawsuit, instead of blaming the judge and impugning his integrity, Trump would have taken a breath, reflected on the emotion and realized – hey, there’s no threat here – and simply said, “Obviously I’m disappointed, but we’ll win in the end.” He would have stopped to weigh the effects of calling Senator Warren “Pocahontas,” journalist Megyn Kelly a “bimbo,” and accepting congratulations after the massacre in Orlando.

Great leaders know to choose their battles carefully and strategically. Have you ever fired off an angry, reactive email and regretted it later? Everybody makes mistakes at one time or another. We let emotion get the better of us and make a gaffe. But when the occasional gaffe becomes a trademark, authentic leaders will reflect on their own behavior and how it affects their organization, their people – and yes, their bottom line. A true leader understands influence, team building, organizational awareness and how to inspire us. Now, we need that more than ever – a calm, thoughtful, steady hand to help this country heal and move forward.


Originally posted on June 15, 2016 on “The Huffington Post” here

By | 2016-06-28T14:19:39+00:00 June 15, 2016|Categories: The Huffington Post|Tags: |

About the Author:

Dena Lefkowitz is a veteran attorney and certified professional coach who helps clients reinvigorate their careers, polish business development skills and rediscover their sense of purpose. A former board member of the International Coach Federation’s Philadelphia chapter, Lefkowitz has successfully coached a best-selling author, lawyers, and chief executives. Firms have also hired Lefkowitz, a former in-house counsel, to work directly with entry level lawyers to improve performance and increase their early contributions to the firm. She holds her BA and JD from Temple University and Temple University School of Law.

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