What We Can Learn from Donald Trump

This is the first part of a feature that examines familiar faces and figures out what we can learn from them. I’ll be looking at a range of interesting people, both real and imagined, and sharing ideas about what they can teach us. I’ll break it down into ‘the good’ and then ‘the bad’ before working out what's important.

I’m quite confident that Donald Trump won’t require any introduction. I also think it’s safe to say that he’s a very divisive figure. 

This is a very interesting one for me as, I used to consider him a role model. My opinions have recently changed though, as I’ve been very disappointed by the way he’s conducted himself during his presidential campaign.

As a businessman, he always impressed me with his straightforward approach and simple and effective advice. I also enjoyed The Apprentice and read several of his books. He has of course always been a controversial figure, but I generally felt he was misunderstood in many respects. 

The Good

It genuinely makes me laugh when I see articles attempting to undermine Donald Trump’s achievements in business. To me, it’s very clear that he's been incredibly successful and that doesn’t just happen. If you look at his history, it becomes clear that he’s an accomplished negotiator and a very effective manager. 

It’s also clear that he knows what he’s doing, and what he needs to do to get things done.

While it’s true that he was once almost bankrupt, it’s quite staggering how he fought his way back. You only have to hear his account of walking several blocks in the rain, to convince potential backers to provide him a lifeline, to realise just how driven he is.

I think the most important thing he promotes is the need to believe in yourself and have a positive attitude. He also makes it very clear that it’s best to keep things simple and that you’re often doing business with people, so it’s important to make the right impression.

It’s significant that he has a very established team around him, and that a number of his top executives have developed from within his business. I’ve also been impressed with what I’ve seen of his children, who now work with him in the business. He also encourages people to ‘think big’ which I think is very important.

The Bad

I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump isn't afraid to say what he thinks, and it isn’t always what people want to hear. He can also appear arrogant and overbearing, and it’s very clear that he holds grudges.

He’s had some very public feuds in the past and I’m sure that even his closest supporters would find it hard to defend him at times. Even during the presidential race he’s made personal attacks on various people, and it’s really not something I want to see. I also think it’s completely unacceptable for a potential presidential candidate to behave like this.

I'm sure many people would agree that we’ve seen the worst of him during his campaign.

The main issue for me, which dramatically changed my opinion of him, was his suggestion that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. I personally considered this to be a very dangerous suggestion that not only encouraged discrimination, but undermined important principles of democracy.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only questionable suggestion from him during his campaign, as his proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border and to force Apple to manufacture its products in the US seem utterly ridiculous. It also appears that his confrontational approach could create, or inflame, a number of potentially dangerous situations in future.

I’m particularly disappointed by all of this as I thought he had all the credentials to be an effective president. He’s used to managing people, building effective teams around him and most of all, he can clearly negotiate and influence people. I don’t see how he can do any of this now though given the way he’s conducted himself.

It’s all very hard to understand, and it may even be an elaborate strategy. Whatever happens, I’m resigned to the fact that I will be hearing negative things in future and will continue to witness things that disappoint me.

Donald Trump speaking

What’s Important

I think the most important thing we can take away from all of this is that we don’t need to like the people who inspire us. Whatever happens in the presidential race, I don’t think it changes the fact that he offers some very good advice in terms of how to be effective in business.

He provides a clear example of how self-belief can turn into arrogance and the negative effect this can have.

There are also important lessons we can learn from his campaign, as it’s very clear we can cause a lot of damage if we don’t carefully consider our actions. People’s impressions of us can last a long time as well.

It’s also unlikely that anyone could emulate Donald Trump in their everyday life though without some serious difficulties.

In his defence, it’s worth considering that very few business people have such public lives, and that he’s very much a celebrity now. He also knows how to give people what they want, so I think the real Donald Trump wouldn’t be the person you see on TV.

Overall, Donald Trump’s business ideas are certainly worth listening to and we can introduce a number of them into our own lives. We just don’t need to act like him to do this though.

Image: 'Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland' by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY 2.0