Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Let’s get the invective and the tweets out of the way first.
Donald Trump thinks that any NFL player who made a silent protest against the treatment of minorities in the US by sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem should be told by the team owner: “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
As leadership styles go, that doesn’t seem too 21st. century, especially when it comes to managing millennials.
Still, by Saturday the president tried to put another black sports star in his place. This time, the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry, who said he wouldn’t go to Trump’s White House with his team, should an invitation be extended.
Trump tweeted his displeasure.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
Curry’s torrent of tears is currently flooding the Bay Area.
There was an interlude when another NBA star — the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James — responded in somewhat Trumpish tones.
U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going! So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017
At the time of writing it enjoys almost 10 times as many Twitter likes and retweets as does Trump’s. Data is everything these days, right?
But if you’re really looking for true leadership in all this, perhaps it’s worth contemplating what the Golden State Warriors said.
The team issued a statement, rather than a tweet.
Warriors release statement on using DC trip this season in late February “constructively” to “celebrate equality, diversion and inclusion.” pic.twitter.com/ceKEhkAGfb
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) September 23, 2017
Like Mr. Deeds, the Warriors will go to Washington. Well, they have to. They have a game there.
They won’t, however, protest. Instead, the team will “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion, the values that we embrace as an organization.”
Sometimes, fighting means doing what you think is right for yourself and others, rather than getting into an insultfest, however tempting that might be.
Sometimes, leading means talking less and doing more.
I can’t help thinking, indeed, that the contrast between the way Curry and the Warriors have behaved reflects a completely different sense of leadership from Trump’s.
It isn’t Trump’s Leadership by Force. It’s Leadership by Thought.
Leadership by Force.
Leadership by Force is all about gaining power, wielding it as a weapon and believing that the sheer force of your own personality will attract everyone to your side. Or else.
This isn’t, as some might be tempted to believe, just a style favored by some of Trump’s generation.
Perhaps the most classic modern example is Uber.
Former CEO Travis Kalanick, seemed to believe he could trample all over laws, cities, competitors and even his own drivers.
He was right and everyone would come around.
He neither bothered to ask for permission nor forgiveness. You were either with the bros or you were bro’d-kill.
Look now. A new CEO, the not-so-bro Dara Khosrowshahi, is only beginning to (try to) clear up the mess the Force wrought.
As a short-term strategy, some found Kalanick’s marauding enticing. Investors, for example. Many of Uber’s employees, however, subsequently admitted they found it disgraceful.
Now, Khosrowshahi is telling his staff that it’s time for “self-reflection.”
“It really matters what people think of us,” he said in a staff email.
At some point, you end up having to think about what you’re doing. At some point.
Leadership by Thought.
The core of Leadership by Thought lies in looking beyond yourself.
The force of your personality and power is rarely going to carry large numbers of people over an extended period of time.
Instead, those who believe in Leadership by Thought know that every day involves managing and anticipating ever-shifting human moods with ever-shifting human priorities.
They know that just telling people what to do, without inspiring them and offering them new opportunities, is ultimately a losing proposition.
They know that at least tinges of meaning and truth can go a long way.
Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, long enamored of forcing the world to his company’s will by moving fast and breaking things, now realizes that he has to do a lot more thinking, in case his own company suffers a little breakage or two.
Force Yourself To Look At The Results.
Sports stars stood against Trump. Public figures rebuked him.
The NFL, a bastion of conservatism, came out against him. In a conservative way, of course.
Some teams and owners even put out their own statements criticizing his views and supporting the players.
A statement from Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin pic.twitter.com/vGzMj0TFmz
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) September 24, 2017
Statement from Miami Dolphins Owner and Founder of Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) Stephen Ross. pic.twitter.com/6W3mXwJO6M
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 23, 2017
Yet Trump doubled down. With a tweet, of course.
Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
The result? For the first time, a baseball player — Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland A’s kneeled during the National Anthem. He’s the son of a military family.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 24, 2017
And you know this will escalate.
Meanwhile, the Warriors will soon begin their season and focus on winning, inspiring their fans, hoping that opposing fans won’t hate them too much, working in the community and laughing a little along the way.
Because they know that leadership isn’t just about them.