As seen on Forbes
The Monica Lewinsky scandal was still fresh in everyone’s mind when the Willow Creek Community Church invited former President Clinton to speak at its massive leadership conference, which attracts the top thinkers from around the world.
Pastor Bill Hybels knew many of the conservative members of the mega-church were unhappy about the invitation, and he addressed the issue head on as he introduced the former President.
After reminding people about how people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, Hybels basically told the audience that if they could not learn from the most powerful man on the planet, they were at the wrong conference.
I agreed with Hybels then. I agree with him now.
Those of us who want to grow our organizations by introducing innovative products, services and business models need to learn as much as we can from whoever we can. Their politics don’t matter.
With that by way of background, here are three things every leader can learn from President Trump:
Lesson #1: Wizzywigs Win
Being a wizzywig simply means to be your authentic self.
That funny word wizzywig is actually an acronym of sorts. It’s short for What You See Is What You Get; WYSIWYG or “Wizzywig.”
We all know a wizzywig. They are comfortable to be around. You know where they stand. They say what they think. They usually have high self-esteem.
In a political arena filled with contrived personas, and focus-group informed sound bites, it was no wonder that people would crave authenticity. President Trump—love him or hate him—showed up as himself at every debate. He tweets as himself at the crack of dawn and stunned many by not acting “presidential” after he was elected. While this may be disappointing to about half the country, it is a welcome delight for those who voted for the maverick agitator Trump claimed to be.
Turns out, he actually is a maverick agitator. Says former rival Marco Rubio, “I don’t understand why people are that shocked. This president ran an unconventional campaign. This White House is not much different from the campaign. People got what they voted for. They elected him.”
In my experience, the best leaders spend absolutely zero energy trying to be something they are not. Pay attention and you will notice that they are exactly the same at home, in the boardroom, at church…everywhere. The best ones are high integrity people with great minds, hearts and character. But you don’t have to have all those things to be a wizzywig.
The lesson is pretty simple: When it comes to personality, authenticity beats the contrived every time. The people have spoken.
Lesson #2: Great Marketers Wear Capes
President Trump is an extraordinary marketer. He is a master of using media, the news cycle and messaging. He knows his target audience and speaks to them effectively.
In successful companies, the power and budgets of chief marketing officers are growing rapidly. Their ability to identify and quantify gaps in the market, empathize with the people in those spaces, and fill their needs with unique and unexpected solutions drives innovation and growth. This is basically what President Trump did during the campaign.
In business, great marketers have always been important. But today, when extremely fickle consumers can use technology to quickly find what they want at a price they want to pay, marketing is what separates the winners from the losers.
The jury is out on whether the President will be able to keep his promises, but the lesson here is: Marketing is a superhero power.
Lesson #3: Disruptors Search For Unhappiness
Innovators and entrepreneurs understand that where there is unhappiness with the way things are, there is opportunity for a new product, a new service or a new business model.
Rhetorically, Mr. Trump made this point in every campaign speech. If you were unhappy or afraid about something, he promised a solution for your pain.
The point for you? Look for real areas of displeasure within your industry. Seek it out and understand it. Create ways to solve for it, and then keep your promises to make life better.
One last thought.
I used to have trouble learning from people I didn’t respect. I mentioned that fact to a friend of mine after listening to a brilliant speech about leadership from a man who has the morals of an alley cat. My friend set me straight. He told me: Don’t mistake the medicine for the vessel.”