Conviction, passion, and good leadership

Of the many articles written during this “interesting” week of the Republican National Convention, a few have revealed a truly unique slant that Donald Trump intends to bring to the job of president. According to reports in the New York Times,, and, Gov. Kasich of Ohio was offered the chance to become the most powerful VP the U.S. had even seen because, as it was explained, he would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy, while the president would be in charge of … making America great. Reinforcing this plan, Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in an interview with the Huffington Post earlier this year, offered the following when speaking about possible running mates:

“He needs an experienced person to do the part of the job he doesn’t want to do,” Manafort said in reference to Trump. “He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

I’m trying to square this intriguing approach to one of the toughest and most powerful positions in the world, and one in which the incumbent bears staggering responsibilities, with our ongoing thoughts on leadership. In some ways one could say that this approach is the epitome of strong leadership. It certainly is not the epitome of good management, although I suppose it speaks to the ability to delegate. However, it just may illustrate conviction and passion. Maybe. Since those characteristics are next on the list of 6 traits of good leadership I presented in an earlier post, let’s take a look and see what we think.

The second leadership trait on our list, after Character, is Conviction. That is another way of saying that good leaders bring passion for the work or cause of their organization. They have the conviction that what they are doing is important and that their role is to inspire others to feel the same way. (This passion, by the way, is meant to be for the work or the cause, not passion to keep your job.) A leader is someone who has a vision for where his or her organization or unit should be headed. Without a vision, someone in a position of authority can be a good manager, but not a leader. A good leader can articulate a compelling vision, convey passion for the vision, and motivate others to share that vision and work towards the associated goals.

To be fair, nothing we’ve put on the table so far suggests that Donald Trump doesn’t satisfy this definition, even if he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty with too many details. He certainly demonstrates conviction and passion for making America great again, even if it may be arguable as to whether or not he can articulate what that means. He articulates it well enough for the 14 million Americans who voted for him to be their presidential nominee. And, remember, this is only one of six important traits.

As a leader, you need to believe passionately in what you’re doing, and you need to be able to inspire, attract and motivate a strong team around you to help realize the shared vision. The team around Donald Trump at the moment seems a bit shaky, but, again, to be fair, that may improve. Or not. Since this leadership series is not about the U.S. election, we’ll give Donald Trump a pass on this particular leadership trait. This trait is not based on ability to execute, it’s based on ability to inspire and motivate. It’s always far better if you can inspire and motivate as large a proportion of your subjects (citizens, employees, clients, colleagues, etc.) as possible, but in politics that is often easier said than done, even when that is your aim.

Good leadership is critical in all domains, not just politics, so let’s take this a bit further. Although a leader isn’t expected to be the only one in an organization with ideas or the one who comes up with the vision all alone, it is extremely important that the organization has a strong vision that it is working toward. If not, they are in danger of falling behind the competition or missing opportunities because they are not staying on top of their game. Not working with a vision in mind is working to the status quo or worse. And, except in the very short term, working to the status quo is actually going backwards. A leader understands that. A leader works to lead the organization forward, with a leadership team working closely with the leader and their employees/constituents/colleagues to achieve their aligned goals.

We have all heard phrases like “the Party just ran out of ideas” or “the company failed to keep up with changes in the industry/with new trends/with new business models”. These not-uncommon failures speak to the importance of a strong vision for an organization, led by an able leader who is able to inspire and motivate those involved to work effectively together. And this in turn speaks to the importance of our second characteristic of leadership, Conviction.

Of course, it also speaks to competence in execution and the ability to nurture continuous improvement. But we still have 4 leadership traits to go. Stay tuned!

Related posts on leadership:

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