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

Clinton had surrogates on top of surrogates and several looked far more capable than she did. It made her look weak and her message, other than being anti-Trump, was relatively complex and far harder to understand as a result. Complexity stands in the way of good execution and one of the reasons Trump out-executed Clinton was because he had a far simpler organization, which meant it was far easier to pivot and mange consistently. He may be a better manager but, with a simpler organization and message, he didn’t need to be.  

Obvious lessons  

I think these things should be obvious, but it isn’t just politicians who don’t get them. Unfortunately, a lot of tech executives don’t get them. It amazes me how many seemed to be using the relationship with Clinton for visibility and to get a lower paying cabinet post for status instead of actually helping their chosen candidate win.

Meg Whitman, in particular, should have pulled out all the stops because changing sides to pick a losing candidate likely ended any chance she’ll ever have of holding elective office (seriously, her picture should be in the dictionary under bad judgment). But if you are going to use an expert, use them for what they are an expert in, you don’t use a stock broker for medical advice or a doctor for investment advice or a tech exec for political advice -- you use them for what they are best at.  

If you don’t understand the power of perceptions, stay the hell away from politics or marketing, otherwise you’ll do yourself and your company more harm than good. Perceptions rule and tech is a wonderful force multiplier when it comes to forming perceptions. Understanding that simple rule is often the difference between winning and losing.

And finally, complexity is a project- and company-killer. Keep it simple, so one person makes decisions not a committee of folks who don’t get along. Keep teams are small and focused, not big and suffering from mission creep, and have one voice ring out into the night for the night is dark and full of terrors.   And those terrors aren’t in Game of Thrones, but in the marketing departments of your competitors.  

Here is wishing you a Happy New Year and that these lessons aren’t as hard-learned for you and your people as they clearly were by Hillary Clinton.  

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