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Why Trump Won

01-Mar-2017 It's not rocket science. It's not a mystery either.

As I tuned into American television networks to listen to Republican and Democratic nominees in February this year I saw a familiar character in Donald J Trump, yet I knew very little about him. I had not seen him before on any televised report, game show or YouTube channel. I only knew of his reputation as a business mogul and his role in The Apprentice. That was it. But there was something very familiar about him, his story and his ambition. I had seen this character before!

I watched with interest as Trump stood alongside more than a dozen lifetime Republican politicians hopeful of gaining the party’s nomination. My gut told me ‘Trump will win’. And since that day I never wavered from that view.

There were five reasons I felt no need to second-guess my instinct. The reasons were based on a long career of reviewing the economic performance and growth strategies of companies and nations, then assessing whether the leadership, culture, change capability and an organisation’s behaviour could deliver that strategy. Over time, your gut takes over as the signs and symbols of successes and failures are repeated. Since the late 1980's I have observed the direct link between these important elements, and you too can learn from what has taken place in American politics.

The key reasons I believed ‘Trump will win’ are:

1.    Business trumps politics

When a successful business mogul offers to lead the economic recovery of a country in desperate need, despite his or her reputation, they are more likely to capture the attention of admiring ordinary folk affected by slow growth, loss of jobs and rising prices than any long-serving public servants responsible for the mediocrity that exists. Leaders of big business with big names are perceived to have the experience and ability to assess growth hurdles, identify growth enablers and take the tough decisions to boost productivity and arrest the climbing budget deficit. While die-hard politicians on both sides, and their supporters, argued that Trump’s business failures disqualified him from this position of privilege, the results disprove the nay-sayers.

2.    Winners trump losers

Even though Trump is accused of sexism, racism and narcissism, people have for centuries been pardoning men for bad behaviour. Rarely does a reputation for being ‘arrogant’ or ‘a bully’ or ‘orange’ defeat a man who has position, power, bravado, fame, fortune and a very large following of people who stand to gain from his next triumph. No, people continue to back self-promoting men who demonstrate determination, strength and a commitment to change things, despite any moral shortcomings they may have. Why? Because the likelihood of them winning is extremely high – and who wants to be on the wrong side of the guy with the power?

3.    Males trump females

The culture and behaviours of most Western civilisations still ‘assume’ that males are more equipped to step up and save the day when things go wrong. When you are squabbling with a neighbour over a dividing fence or a dealer at a car yard over a bungled purchase, most families don’t send the wife. It is the husband who steps forward to confront the adversary because he is generally bigger in stature, louder and more able to intimidate the other party. Males are thought to be more aggressive and are more likely to win the fight. Even though there is worldwide evidence to the contrary, the dominant perception is still that men are more skilled at resolving conflicts. The American people were looking for someone they knew would be willing to fight for them and win.

4.    Disrupters trump complacency

When people are looking for radical change they look for a disrupter from outside the culture. It is rare for radical change to be driven by someone who has lived within a culture for a long time because, generally, they are unable to see clearly what needs to be done. They struggle to find the means of shattering old assumptions that perpetuate the beliefs holding the status quo in place; and they tinker with ‘Band-Aids’ that cover up causes while addressing only the symptoms of failed performance. Clinton’s leadership would merely be an extension of the past and people believed little change would be delivered. Trump’s style and past performance signalled that he was not shy of creating an upheaval and his rhetoric made it clear that he was going to move quickly to demonstrate his win was worthy of their support.

5.    Depth trumps showmanship

I indicated above that I have known characters like Trump before. They are men who sit on the knife-edge between good and bad; whose journey precariously travels the line between fate and fortune. These men are notorious for stomping on a few feet to reach their goals; they push through crowds to get to the finish line first; they constantly crave attention to satisfy their egos and they revel in the public eye. However, behind the scenes the bravado often gives way to a gentler, kinder person who seeks reinforcement from others; looks for approval from those they love; and works hard to build a strong following of friends and family to help protect their empire and legacy. When you look at the Trump children and their abilities, there is strong evidence to suggest that their father provided the environment, education, guidance and support for each of them to succeed. In these characters, the public man and the private man are rarely the same person.

As I shared my view that ‘Trump will win’ at meetings, events and dinners over the past nine months, eight out of ten people looked astonished at me and asked ‘Why would you support a man of such low moral character?’ I replied ‘I didn’t say I supported him, I said I believed he would win.’

As a strategist and change agent my job is not to get emotionally involved in decisions. It is to assess the current state and environment, identify viable strategic options, advise on any limitations that the leadership, culture or organisation may have on delivering the strategy and then provide recommendations for change to help align the elements to ensure success. As I assessed the American economy, the challenge, the candidates and the voice of the people, it was clear, ‘Trump will win’.

You too can assess the performance of your business activity based on the information available to you today. Step outside your culture, or get a fresh eye to tell you what they see. If the writing is on the wall, it will be there in big letters for those who care to look.

For the record, if I were an American citizen my vote would go to the change agent!

Pamela Young
Managing Director
growthcurv Pty Ltd

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