3 big leadership lessons learned from Trump’s win

As we embark on a new year columnist Rob Enderle reflects on the 2016 presidential election and lessons the tech business and its leaders can learn from it.

By Rob Enderle
Jan. 3, 2017

As we are getting ready to go back to work, and many of us are beginning to dread the trip to Las Vegas and CES, I’ll bet you are still discussing the election. There is a lot to discuss, like how did Obama do so well with analytics and Clinton do so poorly, how did Clinton spend her life in politics and yet not understand how classification actually worked, and why, after decades of manipulating elections in other countries was the U.S. so ill-prepared to have it happen to it? But I think there are three big tech lessons you can take away from that battle.

The power of tech firms is tech

This seems obvious but very misunderstood during the election. Clinton basically had the entire tech industry in her corner and many of the firms sold analytics solutions. Yet she seemed to value the related firms for their money and verbal political support. Instead of helping her get analytics right so she could make better choices, they donated money and signed letters against her opponent who had one tech guy, Peter Theil, who focused almost exclusively on, wait for it, tech.

The takeaway is that one tech guy focused on tech is worth more than all of the tech people in the industry focused on politics.  

Perceptions win

My favorite saying is “perception is 100 percent of reality.” It amazes me how many people in and out of tech don’t get this. The iPod, iPhone and especially the iPad are sold on perceptions that had people believing they were magical devices, almost life changing, and folks stood in line for days to be the first to get one. They weren’t and aren’t that special, but as long as people believed differently reality didn’t matter.  

Trump aggressively controlled the perceptions around his opponents going so far as to rebrand them. That is the cornerstone of FUD, the ability to rebrand a competing product and make people believe it sucks especially when it doesn’t. It is also the cornerstone of marketing, making people see the magic in your products and manage those expectations so those people aren’t disappointed. Trump simply did a better job of managing perceptions, and reality never mattered that much and none of his opponents seemed to understand that at all.  

Keep it simple

This is a rule that every one of us should have tattooed on our foreheads in blood. Trump’s organization was relatively simple and he was the lead spokesperson.   He rarely was on message, but when he was there was no dissenting or mixed messages surrounding him, other than what he created and he actually created a lot. But he was clearly the person of the hour.

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