Trump… “own your shit!”

Simon Nicholls
Apr 10, 2020 · 3 min read

As a pragmatist who tries to look for the good in anyone, even I struggle with Trump. Yes, his protectionism is improving the jobs outlook for the common man, but everything else… as a parent, what I find most gauling is that we are subjected on a daily basis to continual displays of the very behaviour we try to drum out of our kids, in a hope that they may become the inspiring business leaders of tomorrow, and ones that might minimise failures in any organisation.

If you ask my 13 and 10 year old what one of the most common phrases I’ve started using with them is, they will reply (hopefully) with “Own your shit!”. I debated for sometime before deciding to use it with them as to whether the message was more important than familiarising themselve with a swear word and concluded on balance… yes. It is normally a joke punchline to a calm and reasoned attempt to explain to them that the way in which they are defensively ignoring their own failing in a circumstance, whilst attacking their sibbling’s mistake is only going to lead to long term neither of them being willing to admit when each other makes a mistake… I live in hope, and try hard to openly admit my own mistakes… defo a work in progress.

… but, it is motivated by much broader experience.

Having led many teams, managed about 30 people over the years, the overriding lesson it has taught me is foster a culture of openness. As a leader being open about your own mistakes, at the same time as being the most driven, helpful to others, and open to sharing ideas — is what makes your team and you a success.

The very mistakes that Trump is trying to berate the WHO for will have happened because the world is populated by organisations where people are afraid to admit they have made mistakes for fear of punishment, yet it is the very behaviour in leaders of ridiculing people for their mistakes and threatening to fire them for it, rather than encouraging them to be open about theirs by simply offering to be open about yours, so you can work collectively to correct and mitigate — is entirely why problems are far more prevalent in all organisation around the world.

Trump might be very effective in certain ways, he might be motivated by some very altruistic ideas about helping the common man in America (I’m willing democratically, and despite all evidence since he was elected, to continue to give him the chance to prove that), but no journalist is going to cut him the slack, or reward him for this effort because he fails to grasp this most important behavioural trait as a leader. He brings it on himself, what is he so defensive about? His boss, (the electorate) can’t say “You’re fired!” to him. Unlike the rest of us, he gets a 4 year probation period, with no instant response to any individual policy response, so why play such a bad hand?

Republican or Democrat, “your” aligned press will be only too keen to jump to your rescue as a leader if you are too keen to “Own shit” that wasn’t even yours. “The other side started this under the previous leader…”. The very spectators he believes he is playing to can be told by their pet newspapers that their great leader is not to blame, he just doesn’t need to play it so childishly.

Trump, calm down, talk nicely, be open, and “own your shit!”… then you might get the nice treatment you so crave from journalists… more importantly you’ll find out sooner about more problems, and you’ll feel let down by fewer people.


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