How to Play Your Trump Card Effectively

September 11, 2015

Of all the things that can be said about Donald Trump – whatever our views on his politics and his personality – there is consensus on this point: The man doesn’t mince words.

This is not always a good thing, as evidenced by the various individuals and groups of people he has offended during the course of his brief presidential campaign. But it would be a mistake for us to miss what pockets of Americans find intriguing or refreshing.

If we’ve learned anything so far in the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign, it’s that people are hungry for a message that doesn’t sound as if it were read from a talking points memo and screened by a committee of political handlers. And at least some potential voters would rather be shocked than bored.

Truth be told, there is value in a candid approach, if properly harnessed. Straight talk can be appealing – without being offensive – by following these rules:

  • Be decisive. Great leadership starts with listening and asking questions. When this critical legwork is done and a point of view is determined, it’s time to lead – and that is accomplished by articulating a clear and succinct message, however popular or unpopular the message is. Delivered with appropriate conviction and coupled with the points that follow, leaders can gain and maintain the confidence of their audience.
  • Be authentic. Trusted communicators provide critical guidance and counsel to leaders. How leaders internalize and own that counsel is what makes the difference between being scripted and being real. Storytelling and personal anecdotes become the backbone of authenticity, even as leaders deliver key points that need to be shared.
  • Be in touch. Know your audience and their needs intimately. Engage them often and keep an ear to the ground, always mindful of land mines. This is the stuff that informs stories and personal anecdotes. It’s what helps leaders frame their opinions and be decisive.

People are weary of leaders who try to be all things to all people. Imagine if executives who have a pulse on our most pressing issues were willing to speak their minds with conviction instead of fear. It could trump our wildest expectations of what leadership should look like.