President-elect Donald Trump is stacking his cabinet with retired military leaders, leaving some wondering about, and some worrying about, what message he’s trying to send to the world. ABC News reported thatTrump’s cabinet will hold the most Generals since World War II.
It’s important to understand that there are two types of generals in the military. The Bureaucrats and the Warriors. President-elect Trump is stacking his cabinet with the Warriors, and it’s not just the generals in his cabinet, his other picks also display a similar warrior mindset regardless of whether they’ve served in the military.
Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), CEO of ExxonMobile, recognized and celebrated by Putin himself, has shown to be a warrior general of business, winning global campaigns crossing geopolitical boundaries. Wilbur Ross (Secretary of Commerce) became the “King of Bankruptcy” by operating from a position of strength, expertly rescuing companies who find themselves in weakness. Ryan Zinke (Secretary of Interior), also not a general, is the first Navy SEAL combat veteran elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. For people inside and outside of Washington, working with this unusual cast of characters will require understanding of how different the Warrior mindset is from what we’re used to dealing with in Washington over the past two decades.
As a trainer for the State Department, transitioning former military operators into high-threat, diplomatic security operators, the very first principle taught is that the military-mind and diplomatic-mind are diametrically opposed. The military-mind approaches accomplishing any objective by forceful means. Always direct. Always blunt. Imposing. They use the stick. The diplomatic-mind however approaches accomplishing objectives by persuasive means. Always tactful. Always refined. Inclusive. They use the carrot. The successful business leader who wants to have sway in Washington will learn how to bridge the gap between these two mindsets, posture to occupy a position of strength, but still respect and receive respect from those who don’t.
Washington bureaucrats pre-Trump have been focused on discussing, deliberating and debating the problems we face. Rhetoric and speech are their preferred currency. Great value is placed on one’s eloquence, articulateness and loquaciousness. Enormous amounts of mental, emotional and physical energy are expended on declamation of how proposed solutions, from anybody not of one’s own ideological bent, will not work. The Washington we know wholly subscribes to the tactics of gridlock and obstruction to defend one’s political position and party.
There’s been a shift. Warriors, now those in Trump’s cabinet, are focused on execution of solutions to the problems we face. Action, which in the warrior’s mind, speaks louder than words and is their preferred currency. Value is placed on one’s performance. Enormous amounts of mental, emotional and physical energy are expended on implementing pragmatic, practical and workable solutions. Warriors wholly subscribe to the philosophy that you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. Lead, follow or get out of the way, political persuasion and identity is irrelevant.
While neither mindset is right or wrong, flourishing in this new climate requires an honest and objective assessment of this new reality. Trump is putting together a group of mentally tough leaders who hate to lose, accept no excuses and will be focused on high performance. If you are not a fighter you will not find it easy to work with Trump’s team. One cannot be perceived as coming from a position of weakness, which is rewarded with disdain and contempt. This is why Trump shows respect, and even admiration for Putin; he sees Putin as a warrior, a fellow fighter, who operates from a position of strength. The successful fighter’s ideological spectrum is strength and weakness, not liberal and conservative. In this new environment, to be successful, one must posture up and show strength.
Mr. Trump has found success in operating and negotiating from a position of strength, never showing weakness. The gathering of similar fighters into Mr. Trump’s inner circle sends the message to friends and foes, both foreign and domestic, that regardless of the reality television-esque, carnival sideshow that is served up for media and public consumption, his administration will operate from a position of strength. He’s essentially telling the world that if you want the benevolence of the U.S. government, you must show respect.
While an action-oriented administration could be refreshing for many Americans who have been frustrated with Washington gridlock, there is a downside to the new warrior in Washington era -- Those who are deemed weak, will have no voice or place at the table. The warrior will fight and even unhesitatingly sacrifice their own life for those who cannot fight for themselves, but make no mistake about it, the weak who cannot fight for themselves are never invited into the ranks. This can lead to myopic groupthink. The inner circle, full of posturing fighters, by default, will be loath to consider points of view, ideas, innovations, and dismissive of alternative methods that have originated from outside the ranks.