In just two weeks into his presidency, Trump has started to rewrite the rulebooks of leadership. Well, this new paradigm revolves around this new concept of Twitter Leadership with Trump at its helm.
Pundits and commoners have been very vocal about Trump’s leadership style. Obviously, there are always two sides to a coin.
Evaluating Trump’s leadership as the 45th US president needs a non-political context.
Feasibly, this might sound absurd. But, as Trump’s words and actions have been highly political in nature, we can’t be too redundant in our analysis.
Trump’s ‘Twitter Leadership’
First, we need to define what this ‘Twitter Leadership’ is. No rulebook on leadership has ever coined this term, so let REEDEL be the first. There is no need to complicate the obvious. Through Twitter, Trump built the momentum of his campaign. Eventually, through Twitter, Trump has stamped his mark as the US president in the past two weeks.
Definitely, @realDonaldTrump has made waves not just in the US but also as far as Twitter’s reach. From his Great Wall and Muslim Ban tweets, Trump has moved the political arena from the Lincoln Memorial to the Twitter-sphere.
Pun aside; he’s got 23.8M followers. That’s more than enough to define a ‘leader’.
On a more serious note, is that enough to define him as a ‘real leader’ according to the rulebooks of leadership?
Trait Leadership and Trump
Proponents of trait leadership believe that a leader is born not made. One of them is Stephen Zaccaro (2007), who believes in leadership skills as inherent attitudes and behaviors.
Zaccaro’s model includes the following attributes:
- Cognitive Abilities
- Motives and Values
- Social Appraisal Skills
- Problem Solving Skills
- Expertise/Tacit Knowledge
More importantly, Zaccaro (2007) noted that leadership effectiveness comes from the combination of these traits rather than ‘independent contribution of multiple traits.’
Now, if we are to juxtapose these with Trump, we can say that he has all these, but the quality remains to be in question.
Let’s just take three of the six attributes by asking these questions:
- If he has a ‘good personality’, would he openly use crude expressions?
- Well, if he has high cognitive abilities, would he refuse to accept the facts especially the numbers during his inauguration?
- If he has such ‘values’, could he think of other policies aside from banning Muslims?
Henceforth, this closes Trump’s chances of falling under a ‘Trait Leader’.
Transactional Leadership and Trump
Perhaps, Trump has high chances of falling under this category. Besides, transactional leadership is the closely relevant to management—a top-down approach for easy maintenance.
For this reason, basic assumption dictates how Trump fits in this category as a business mogul.
However, let’s take a closer look at one of the models as proposed by Bernard Bass (1981), which can be summarized in three points:
- Laissez-faire: abdicates responsibilities/delegates/assigns
- Management by exception: corrections and punishment
- Contingent reward: promises rewards for good performance
Again, it’s the combination of these three that makes a good transactional leader, which brings positive impact to an organization. Does Trump make the cut?
Well, he has abdicated responsibilities to his family, son-in-law, and even Steve Bannon.
In addition, he has fired Sally Yate, the acting attorney general, for “refusing to enforce a legal order”.
Unfortunately, Trump has not promised any rewards yet—just walls and bans.
The buck stops there for Trump and Transactional Leadership.
Transformational Leadership and Trump
A transformational leader is usually associated with the word ‘charisma’. Once again, people can safely assume that by being a formal reality show host, Trump could be a transformational leader.
Nevertheless, let’s benchmark Trump against Bass’ model of transformational leadership. Bass (1990) does not box a transformational leader in a charismatic brand.
Consequently, for him, superior leader performance comes when a leader creates awareness of the mission and allows their follower to go beyond.
Likewise, Bass’ Transformational Leader goes by these traits:
- Charisma: Provides vision and sense of mission
- Inspiration: Communicates high expectations
- Intellectual Stimulation: Promotes intelligence
- Individualized Consideration: Treats every person respectfully
Given the abovementioned traits, it’s definitely a NO for all for Mr. President.
Twitter Leadership and Trump
With all three major leadership theories squeezed out, what’s left for Mr. Donald J. Trump?
Definitely, he does not fit in any of the three mainstream leadership ideals because he is Trump. He does not follow the Bible because he creates his own canon of alternative facts.
Hence, we propose a theory: the Twitter Leadership. It does not fall in any of the three leadership models, although it has some traces of transactional leadership.
In addition to the earlier definition of Twitter Leadership, this theory can be simply explained by the following:
- Simplistic: Vision and policies must fit in 140 characters.
- Social Media Driven: The official medium of communication and source of information devoid of fake news
- Self-promoting: The leader should be at the center of everything.
Arguments aside, @realDonaldTrump fits this model perfectly.
As a challenge to future researchers in this colorful field of leadership, Trump is the perfect guinea pig for this paradigm shift.
How effective is Twitter Leadership? We will find out in the next four years.