Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trump Feeds on Fear

"Fear is limiting. It is content with living small, constrained and underwhelmed. Fear doesn't accomplish. It defeats. Fear plays the short game. It masquerades as momentary success. But then, once it has infected your culture, it destroys you in the long run."

This is the quote from my book, Corporate Bravery, published last year. It was written for businesses and organizations to free themselves from negative cultures that create sub-par returns and are full of demoralized workers.

But a year later it could have been written for the Trump campaign and the man himself. I don't know the culture of his business organization. By many accounts there seems to be some success - there are even good people that work inside of Trump's many businesses. But that is the way it is for many cultures run by fear.

This is not, nor was it ever intended to be a political blog, website or think tank. But as I sit silently watching the theatrics and mud wrestling that has become the 2016 campaign I keep getting reminded of why I wrote Corporate Bravery.

Going back to the quote I started this post with, I want people to live lives that are not limited, small, constrained and underwhelming. I want people to have a long-term perspective, not satisfied with short-term victories at the expense of their future.

But this is exactly what Donald Trump offers as President. And by proxy I don't want this for the people of the United States.

Take this tweet for example:
Yes Trump is striking a chord with terrorism. He is also striking a chord with immigration because in both cases he is preying on American's greatest fears. His campaign slogan may be "Make America Great Again" but you can't make any organization or culture great by playing to its members' greatest fears.

What happened to real men presidents or presidential candidates that led with slogans like "The only thing to fear is fear itself"? Notice the massive shift that has happened to our culture in a few decades?

Despite the campaign slogans, Trump doesn't offer any real hope, only escalation, litigation and anger. When I think of the motivations behind Trump's rhetoric I am reminded of a recent quote from Seth Godin's newest book, "People in power have taken advantage of glitches in our personalities and errors in our instincts to create an environment where they profit and we come out behind."

While publicly he uses slogans such as "Make America Great Again" his entire history has been motivated by his own personal gain. I would challenge anyone reading this post to point out anything he has accomplished that has been for the greater good, yet suddenly his only motivation is to make America great again?

A recent article in Quartz discussed in more detail how Trump is tapping into these primal instincts.
These ancient instincts explain why so many are instinctively drawn to Trump, says Shenkman. Less educated voters are particularly vulnerable to Trump’s demagoguery, he says, as they have no alternative source of knowledge to counter their biological instincts. “His base is low-information voters and he’s just coming right out and saying it: ‘I love the poorly educated,’” he adds.
 One of the strongest instincts is tribalism, says Shenkman, as we instinctively favor those with shared ancestry:
"Since Donald Trump began his election in June, he’s been activating an ancient instinct in human brains, which is fear of the other. For many people, who lack other knowledge on which they can make their judgments about Mexican immigrants of Muslims coming into the United States, this winds up becoming a powerful trigger for their political beliefs."
It takes a brave leader to provide real solutions that considers the potential, far-reaching impacts. To rise above organizational fear factors and to sow seeds of hope instead of fear.

Lets revisit the eight fear factors as outlined in my book Corporate Bravery:
1. Mistrust
2. Squashing individuality
3. Politics
4. Competition
5. Regulation
6. Control
7. Media
8. Legal system

While regulation isn't exactly relevant to this discussion, Trump uses each of these as a weapon to move up the polls. A dysfunctional organization could exhibit a strong tendency toward three, but seven out of eight is a level of dysfunction that is unprecedented.

Going back to these primal instincts, we may not be able to just ignore them all together. But as the article points out,
Shenkman adds that we have the means, through culture and education, of countering our instincts. “We’re not slaves to our instincts,” says Shenkman. “We do have higher-order cognitive thinking.”
But we must all step back and ask what type of culture will we create by allowing these primal instincts to lead us toward a possible President Trump. I have seen the outcome from leaders like Trump and I am confident in saying - that is not a culture I want to raise my family in.