A Tale of Two Mavericks: Trump and Sanders

Many people love Donald Trump. He's the unmitigated maverick of the moment; opinionated, bold and brash. On a maverick scale of 1 to 10, he's a 10. What people really love about Donald Trump is that he has no filters. He isn't a platitudinous robot, mechanically stumping around the country, oh so carefully, so as not to reveal the slightest bit of humanity. Oh no, he is quite the opposite. He is quite human and his true opinions, as conflicting as they may be at times, are out in the open. What you see is what you will get.

Contrast Trump with Bernie Sanders, another maverick. Sanders is also opinionated and bold, but not so brash, while still a 10 on the maverick scale. Sanders is very passionate about what he believes needs to happen for our country to make progress and is fearless about criticizing the powers that be. However, he does not put forward his ideas or platform in an impetuous way. Lacking brashness, Sanders' light is no less bright for other reasons, but he doesn't have the mass entertainment appeal that Trump inherently models at every turn. Sanders is less quotable and less quippy, which is likely due to his considerable thoughtfulness and intellectual depth.

As mavericks, both Sanders and Trump are very assertive, but differ drastically in the level of detail they put forth regarding their intended policy making, which is very different. Trump is somewhat simplistic, so far, which has its mass appeal but ultimately may not stand up to the rigors of statecraft, while Sanders has a more substantive platform, forged from years of putting forward his ideas as an elected official. When it comes to stating what he thinks, Trump is uber-direct, many times engaging in ad hominem attacks which plays well in the peanut gallery but doesn't come across as presidential. Bernie Sanders hasn't engaged in name calling as a cheap substitute for intelligent debate.

Where it really matters, Trump is very street smart and is openly stating he would run the country like a business. Which doesn't bode well for us citizens who count on a government that necessarily cares for and serves its citizenry. Running the country like a business is an ill-advised metaphor, which fails at every turn. It's like saying you are going to run an orphanage like a brick factory, putting the orphans to work with their little fingers shaping clay into cubes. Government is at the head of a social compact and all metaphors to business tend to fail. Yes, we need to trim the budget and become more prudent and, yes, we also need to tackle the deficit but, after that, the metaphor fails.

According to Robert Bolton's work, People Styles at Work, Donald Trump is a driver, with some expressive tendencies. Under the stressors of leadership, he would exhibit autocratic tendencies. His other demonstrated stress style is to attack, using a variety of tactics, from name calling and ad hominem to outright bloviation. Bernie Sanders is also a driver, but he is more thoughtful in his critiques of others, pointing out the intellectual shortcomings of his rivals' policies and positions. Sanders doesn't call people names. Instead he articulately calls out their propositions and offers a more thoughtful critique of the thinking behind the positions. Sanders engages in what I call fair uses of power. Contrast this to Donald Trump's style of unfair uses of power: name calling, diminishment, put downs, exclusion and insults. Name calling is almost always a failure of articulation. Why call people names if you have the ability to articulately point out the errors of their thinking or positions? I suspect that Trump uses those tactics because name calling garners headlines and headlines are what Trump wants.

Sanders is more wonky than street smart, which isn't as neatly packaged as the Trump brigade. While Trump has a sense of humor, Sanders has an incredible sense of urgency, pointing out that we, as a country, need a massive overhaul of how we conduct and fund elections, how we prioritize government spending, and how we conduct ourselves as a nation state.

So, here we have two different types of mavericks, each running for the highest position in the country. Time will tell if Trump gets the Republican nod, in spite of Iowa. If I could give Trump coaching or advice, I would attempt to illuminate for him the terrible fallout from some of his tactics. By virtue of his positions on critical issues that face the country and by the way he whips his followers up into a fearful frenzy he is alienating large swaths of people who are, quite frankly, completely turned off by his style.

While fear can be a motivator, it is a poor one. Visit Harvard Business Review and use the search terms "fear" and "motivation" and you will come up with a plethora of articles which debunk the myth that fear motivates people effectively. Fear based workplace cultures are less effective, less productive and less competitive than companies with cultures of inclusion, respect and positivity. Fear mongering is not compatible with how we view ourselves as a country. We are supposed to be the "land of the brave" and freaking out is simply gauche.

As far as management styles go, it is hard to imagine that Trump will offer thoughtful guidance to his cabinet (read, "team"), if elected. More likely, he will issue commands based upon his current thinking (subject to change) and, based upon his demonstrated management style, he will not be swayed by the nuances of running a government. Where President Obama has sometimes displayed analysis paralysis, Trump will charge ahead, nuances falling to the wayside. Picture Donald Trump with his finger on the button. You know what button I mean. If elected and Trump surrounds himself with an echo chamber, it will be a horror show of ego, aggression and grand standing, which will not serve our country or its people.

Sanders, on the other hand, will probably exemplify a more stated and thoughtful executive management style. As a moderated maverick, I predict that Sanders would install a cabinet diverse in opinion and substantive expertise. He would be inclusive in his decision making style and wield his considerable executive powers with caution. If elected, Trump will brandish his executive powers and public opinion, or the Constitution, be damned.

L. Kay Wilson is an employment lawyer turned executive coach and the founder of the Maverick Leadership Institute. She innovated a coaching program called Charm School for Mavericks which helps leaders with powerful personalities learn how to moderate their wattage. Kay can be reached at kay@kaywilson.net .