Episode 58: My Stand On Trump and Clinton [The Amiel Show]

Last week’s post, Executive coaches are normalizing a demagogue: It’s time to stop, created quite a stir.

Thank you for your comments, questions, and encouragement.

I’m taking a risk using my professional platform to discuss politics, so I’m grateful the message has landed for so many of you.

This week, I have more to say. I recorded a solo riff yesterday so you could hear it during the week when we all are making sense of the first Clinton/Trump debate.

After you listen, drop me a short note and tell me what you think, OK? And if you choose to respond to my call to action, let me know what you do.

Highlights

  • 1:00 I read excerpts from the post
  • 9:00 What’s the point of developing leaders if we don’t speak up now?
  • 15:00 Imagining a choice that truly would be challenging
  • 17:00 My call to action for leadership coaches, trusted advisors, and leaders
  • 23:30 None of us have clean hands
  • 26:00 Our country has not gone mad, and a liberal Berkeley sociologist visits Trump country

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“Why devote my life to developing leaders if I’m not going to speak up now about Trump?”

–Amiel Handelsman   Tweet this quote

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Executive coaches are normalizing a demagogue. It’s time to stop.

Benito Mussolini in 1930s Italy


This will ruffle feathers.

The field in which I work, executive coaching, faces an identity crisis. We claim to stand for better leadership. It’s part of our core promise to clients. Yet we often get mired in mushy talk about style, treating people as one big horizontal typology. So we blind ourselves and others to what leadership is most deeply about: not how a person talks, but for whose benefit.

Unfortunately, the “style” view of leadership dominates the field. This blinds us to history: tyrants and demagogues have ruled human civilization for centuries. More importantly, by ignoring morality, we shirk our responsibility to clients and society by ignoring the tyrants and demagogues in our midst.

I know we can do better.

Let’s start with this year’s U.S. presidential race.

It’s not about “Feeler” versus “Doer”

Clinton is a “Feeler,” whereas Trump is a “Doer.” That’s the opinion of a seasoned executive coach quoted last year in Inc. “No style is better or worse than the others,” she says. “And Doers can be extremely effective leaders.”

Pause the tape. Is this the biggest distinction between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Feeler versus Doer. Is this what we want to say when given a public platform?

Really?

I glanced at this coach’s web site. Her team includes people I know and respect. Her company runs women’s leadership retreats. She undoubtedly is familiar with the history of men getting hired over better qualified women and the dangers of cruel, autocratic leaders of any sex. So, I’m curious: why did she choose to focus on differences in style? Perhaps she was quoted out of context. Or maybe she criticized Trump’s moral character, yet the writer chose to omit this.

Either way, I think this coach let herself be used to normalize a dangerous demagogue. Normalizing. That’s what happens when we place a person like Trump into soft, familiar categories. He’s not an egocentric, deceptive bully who aims to dominate and humiliate others. No, he’s a “Doer.” Just like many readers of Inc. Just like you and me.

Is this the best we can do as a profession? Have we spent so many hours staring at 360 assessment instruments that we’ve forgotten about human history and moral character?

I hope not.

It’s not about “Collaboration” versus “Inspiration”

Yet the signs continue to come. Yesterday, I got an email from friends of mine linking to an article they just published in a major business journal. It’s about the election. It focuses on…yes…style.

Ugh.

They draw a distinction between “collaboration” (Clinton) and “inspiration” (Trump). “An effective approach,” they write, “balances directive and inclusive traits.”

Friends, it’s six weeks before the election. A impulsive and vindictive man is in position to have his hands on the nuclear codes.  He will be talking with, and probably lobbing insults at, leaders of other nuclear weapons states. Is this all we leadership coaches have to say about Trump? That he is inspiring and directive?

Really?

When my friends see this post, I imagine what they’ll say: “Amiel, chill out. We’re not going to vote for him. And we noted his low score from PolitiFact for truthfulness. We’re just taking advantage of a great learning opportunity. People can’t stop talking about the election. Shouldn’t we shed some light on what it means?”

Yes, but not that meaning. The core leadership lessons here are about character, not style. Moral fiber, not verbal communication.

It’s about levels of moral development in a nuclear age

What is the fundamental difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? It’s not about horizontal typology–the way they roll. It’s about levels of vertical moral development: who they are willing and unwilling to roll over.

A quick primer on moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg of Harvard first articulated the theory, and Carol Gilligan applied it to women. Both outline three broad levels of moral development. As kids, we are egocentric. Then, most of us progress to ethnocentric. We identify with people who are like us. Finally, a minority of us progress to worldcentric. We identify with everyone. The higher the level, the more people we include in our own self-interest. In other words, the very meaning of “self” broadens as we develop through these levels. To summarize:

  • Egocentrism is about me
  • Ethnocentrism is about us, i.e. my family, my tribe, my race, my country
  • Worldcentrism is about all of us, i.e. all families, tribes, races, and countries.

“Me” to “Us” to “All of us.”

Hillary Clinton is not just a smart, experienced, and hard-working person. She embodies a worldcentric view. This doesn’t mean she is without flaws. It means that she can do real leadership work in spite of her flaws. For example, she has a penchant for privacy/secrecy that has hardened over time. But did this keep her from succeeding as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State? Not if you listen to the views of Republicans when interviewed about her while she was in office. They gave her high marks on her performance and universally agreed on her capacity to listen.

Where would you put Donald Trump? He’s been widely criticized for racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, so he’s ethnocentric, right?

I don’t think so. Donald is all about Donald. He is egocentric. Most of his outrageous and offensive talk is for the sake of himself. His poll numbers. His adulation from crowds. And, God forbid, his victory in November.

Trump lives to dominate and humiliate others, even those, like Chris Christie, who are his allies. (Take note, Vladimir Putin). He can’t stop talking about himself: his buildings, his money, his crowds, even his genitals. He lies so often to appear dominant that many people no longer notice. He even interprets terrorist attacks through the lens of his own pride (“I predicted it! Now my poll numbers will go even higher.”)

Even the man’s charitable foundation isn’t about serving others. David Fahrenthold, a reporter for the Washington Post, has done tenacious reporting about the Trump Foundation. Every few days he turns up new evidence of Trump’s egocentric corruption. The latest: Trump used hundreds of thousands of “charitable” dollars to pay his legal bills.

So is Trump ethnocentric?

No, because he has not yet developed that far.

He is an egocentric demagogue in position to be Commander in Chief.

Nuclear weapons are not profit and loss statements

Why does this matter? Because the stakes are high.

The President’s most serious responsibility doesn’t involve profit and loss statements. It involves nuclear weapons. Losing your cool in diplomacy can have enormous implications. Forget the nuclear codes for a moment and consider the impact of words. What if the person Trump insults isn’t a reporter but the head of a nuclear weapons state?
Maybe my friends and the coach quoted in Inc weren’t thinking about this. We’ve gotten so used to seeing Trump on talk shows that we forget this is about the Oval Office.
The New Yorker just published a piece imagining Trump’s first term. Read it, and you’ll find all this talk about “style” to be trifling.

Take a smart stand

So, fellow leadership coaches, it’s time to stop describing Trump as a “Doer” who brings “Inspiration.” Please, no more of this tepid talk!

Instead, let’s take a stand that we are uniquely qualified to take. Let’s speak out as leadership coaches about the real difference between these candidates. How and where you do this is up to you. No need to sacrifice your career or friendships–most of the actions you can take will affect neither.

For an example, check out the open letter about the election that over 100 leadership coaches have signed. For many, it was a courageous act. One East Coast coach said, “NEVER would have done this via my professional network previously. MUST do so in this circumstance.”

We can do better.

Episode 57: Servant Leadership At Zingerman’s With Ari Weinzweig [The Amiel Show]

Ari Weinzweig

In 2003 Inc magazine called the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses the “coolest small business in America.”

Step inside the Zingerman’s Deli or any of its other businesses, and you’ll quickly see why. There is a buzz in the air. An aliveness. Customers and employees alike seem genuinely happy to be there. It’s as though there are secret air ducts bringing dopamine (the “feel good” neurotransmitter”) into the building and taking cortisol (a stress hormone) out.

And the food? Well, it is amazing. And world famous. In 2007 Bon Appetit gave its Lifetime Achievement award (an honor rarely bestowed—past winners include Alice Waters and Julia Child) to Zingerman’s cofounders, Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw.

From a financial perspective, Zingerman’s pulls in $50 million a year. As my father would say, “not too shabby!”

Zingerman’s has a special meaning to me. It’s in my hometown, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Deli opened during my teenage years when trying to fit an overstuffed roast beef sandwich into the mouth became a thrilling challenge. Today, every time we go back to Ann Arbor to visit, I take my sons there two or three times–even if the visit is only a few days long!

As a customer, I’m satisfied. As a student of leadership, I’m curious: what goes on behind the scenes to make this business so special? How do the leaders treat employees? How do employees interact with each other? What are the rules of the game that make the outcomes so extraordinary?

Cofounder Ari Weinzweig has explored these questions in a series of books called Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading. The latest just came out and is called A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to the Power of Beliefs in Business.

In this week’s episode, Ari and I talk widely and deeply about all of this–and share some laughs along the way.

I think you’ll enjoy Ari’s clarity, energy, and Chicago accent. Please do the show a favor and share with friends who love food, care about leadership, and/or enjoy feeling alive.

Highlights

  • 18:00 Treating staff like customers – each one is different!
  • 23:00 Ari pours water for thirsty employees
  • 27:00 Peer-to-peer versus parental relationships
  • 34:00 Anarcho-capitalism
  • 40:00 Energizing the workplace
  • 46:30 Front-line employees know the numbers and manage the business
  • 52:00 Determining who will manage is a peer-to-peer decision
  • 1:00:00 Ari uses daily journaling to stop ruminating
  • 1:02:30 The Three Good Things exercise

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The more we use authority, the less effective it is.

–Ari Weinzweig, Co-founder of Zingerman’s  Tweet this quote

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Episode 56: Charles Feltman On The Four Kinds Of Trust [The Amiel Show]

Charles_Feltman_2016_3 (2)

When you say that you “trust” someone–or that someone else “trusts” you–what exactly do you mean? We toss the word “trust” around left and right. We make major life decisions based on it. But what does the word actually mean?

If you want to improve relationships and outcomes at work and beyond, a simple unified view of “trust” just doesn’t cut it.

According to this week’s guest, Charles Feltman, there are four different dimensions to trust: competence, reliability, sincerity, and care.

What happens when you trust someone’s reliability but not their sincerity? Or how about when someone trusts your sincerity but considers you incompetent at a particular activity?

The distinctions that Charles offers in this interview–and in his wonderful book The Thin Book of Trust–can literally change how you make sense of your leadership. And life.

Please listen in and share with friends.

Highlights

  • 9:30 Who gets to decide how trustworthy you are?
  • 16:30 The big problem with the trust/distrust distinction
  • 18:30 Four assessments of a person’s trustworthiness
  • 22:30 What if you’re competent and sincere, but not reliable?
  • 28:30 Drive by requests
  • 40:00 Enemies of trust in sincerity—telling probable truths
  • 51:30 Let key people know where you are not competent
  • 56:00 Approaching someone you don’t trust
  • 1:02:00 What if you sense someone doesn’t trust you?

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Trust is making something I value vulnerable to another person’s actions.

–Charles Feltman  Tweet this quote

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Episode 55 Charles Duhigg on Smarter Faster Better [The Amiel Show]

Charles Duhigg pic

Charles Duhigg’s first book The Power of Habit spent over a year on the New York Times bestseller list. In addition to being popular, it was darn good.

So when I heard he was coming out with a second book, Smarter Faster Better, I invited him for an interview. After several back and forth emails with his friendly team of publicists, he accepted. (Although I’ve interviewed other luminaries like David Allen, this was my first experience with a publicist–other than the one I hired to help with Practice Greatness.)

The new book’s subtitle is The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. I forgot to ask him which part of business is outside of life. Or if he thought he’d sell more copies calling it Dumber Slower and Worse–which has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Otherwise, it was a good interview.

My goal is always to make my guests laugh, praise my genius, or comment on my humility. I’m not sure any of those things happened this time, but I sensed Charles smiling on a couple of occasions. Small wins, people. Small wins.

Enjoy!

Highlights

  • 3:30 Who ate the chocolate chip cookie?
  • 6:00 Charles’s experiments in meeting new people at conferences
  • 11:00 Why psychological safety matters in produces great teams
  • 16:00 Saturday Night Live’s early seasons—how even misanthropes can work well together
  • 19:00 Making better decisions by thinking probabilistically
  • 26:30 Subversives in nursing homes—transforming chores into choices
  • 28:00 Marine Corps Boot Camp—improving self-motivation by asking why you are doing something

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You’ll be amazed by how much self-motivation gets generated by asking yourself why.

–Charles Duhigg  Tweet this quote

 

Lorne Michaels models psychological safety and he’s not even a particularly nice person.

–Charles Duhigg   Tweet this quote

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Leadership Coaches for Steady Hands on the Nuclear Codes [New Post]

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/10/01/article-2211230-154B2983000005DC-726_634x442.jpg
I won’t coach a leader with an untreated mental illness. They need to be in a different room with a different person.
It’s a basic standard in executive coaching.
I never thought I’d need to apply the same principle to voting for President. Every major party candidate in my lifetime has been relatively sane. I may disagree vociferously with their politics, but I don’t fear giving them access to the nuclear codes.
This year it’s different.
That’s why I’m choosing today to write to you today about national politics. It’s a topic I rarely bring up in my work with leaders because our success together depends on mutual trust. Talking politics can get in the way of that.
But the choice we face in this year’s Presidential election isn’t about liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, or even light versus dark.
It’s about sanity versus insanity. Having a balanced temperament versus constantly coming unhinged.
One candidate in this race has, at minimum, an untreated personality disorder. When he speaks for more than thirty seconds, I think to myself, “This man is not well.”
Do you know what I’m talking about?
I’m confident you do.
The other candidate is unmistakably sane. You may or may not love the thoughts in her head, but it’s clear that her head is on straight.
This difference matters. A lot.
For example, the President of the United States has access to many things that you and I don’t. One of those is the codes to launch nuclear missiles. These codes follow the President around everywhere he or she goes. When the President chooses to use these codes, big stuff happens.
Saying “big stuff”sounds funny but we all know it’s not a joke. That’s why we want the person with access to the nuclear codes to have steady hands and a sane mind.
It’s the bare minimum prerequisite for the office, more so even than relevant experience, knowledge of how government works, aligned worldviews, or basic competence.
Steady hands and a sane mind. This description applies to only one major party nominee in this race.
She happens to be a Democrat. And her opponent, the one whose mind is not well, is running in this race as a Republican. However, for once, those party distinctions don’t really matter to me. If he were running as a Democrat (which is not implausible given his current views on trade and past views on social issues), I’d vote for the Republican.
That’s why I’ve chosen today to speak up. And why I’m starting a group called Leadership Coaches for Steady Hands on the Nuclear Codes.
Yeah, I know, that’s a long name, but it’s a start, and it captures what we stand for:
  • People with expertise in leadership speaking up at an important moment in history
  • Naming the key distinction between the two major candidates
  • Applying it to a monumental power of the Presidency
  • Doing this in a way that emphasizes we are for something good rather than just against something dangerous

 
Stay tuned for more as this group takes shape.