The Accidental President

In the final analysis, the long term success of all organizations depends upon the quality of its employees and agents and how well they are managed.  This is true whether the organization manufactures the latest and hottest new gadget for which there is seemingly unrelenting demand, or whether the organization is focused upon the delivery, at no cost to the recipient, of necessary humanitarian services.  People are the only asset of any organization that will ensure its long term success in the teeth of constant winds of change.

People not only come in all sizes, shapes, and colors; they also come with all sorts of temperaments.  While many organizations focus on the former attributes when they hire, few focus upon temperament in their questioning.  This is foolish because temperament is the only thing that matters in an employee or agent other than his or her ability.

Even the most able employee or agent at a particular task may have a debilitating temperament, and management must handle  any unfortunate consequences if the employee or agent is to be maintained in place rather than fired.  Firing employees with poor temperaments is the easiest but most expensive way to solve the problem they represent, and does the organization no good whatsoever if they are a key employee and their temperament is otherwise manageable.  The best solution is to fit those employees with poor temperaments in where they do the least damage and provide appropriate oversight of them in order to manage the resulting deficiencies they yield, whatever those deficiencies may prove to be.

In my managerial experience, perennial naysayers have the potential to do the greatest damage to an otherwise tight-knit organization.  Naysayers always find fault with everything, but are usually  incapable of offering a single positive solution to the proposal they are faulting.  In fact, it doesn’t occur to them that they ought to offer an alternative because, for them, a negative put down is the sole purpose of their speaking up.  They see a negative put down as evidence of their intelligence and cleverness, and, in their opinion, they need offer nothing more.  Chronic naysayers tend to be show-offs who delight in putting others down in order to raise themselves up.  Rising by climbing over a pile of bodies slain by their own cleverness is their chosen means of attaining what they see as success.

Anyone with extensive management experience has had to deal with perennial naysayers.  Good managers both understand and fear the type, even if they are adept at handling them.  The trick to managing them successfully is to keep them focused on nonessential topics and away from things that are truly essential to the success of the  organization.  After all, who really cares whether they go on and on about the new office paint color; their constant complaint may be tedious and somewhat maddening, but the truth is that the paint is already on the wall and there’s nothing to be done about it until it’s time to paint again.

The chronic naysayer, by instinct, has little idea about how to accomplish something, only about how to find fault in the manner he or she finds the most delicious.  They are best employed constructively, if at all, when business plan initiatives are being developed since, if the naysayer has any common sense, his or her constant fault-finding will  highlight risks inherent in proposed plans of action, allowing the manager to be certain that the risks being complained of by the naysayer have been taken into account.

What no rational manager would ever do is put a chronic naysayer in charge of a vital segment of the business plan.  If the manager did so, at best nothing would likely ever get done on the matter; at worst the naysayer would make a complete hash of it and cripple the company.  Naysayers don’t know how to cross a finish line; they just know how to tell everyone else involved, including the inevitable champion in charge of the segment, why they will be unable to cross one.  And when the champion does succeed, the naysayer will continue to criticize the style and mannerisms the champion used in doing so long after the champion has achieved success and everyone else has moved on.

What should be patently obvious by now to anyone not wearing a blindfold of hyper partisanship is that Donald Trump is a classic perennial naysayer.  He has no positive ideas of his own about solving any problem no matter how important or trivial it may be as shown by his constant floundering about and his habit of borrowing ideas from the last Trumpian minion through the door before he seizes upon his next opportunity to speak out and gain attention.  He delights in finding fault and seems to take no joy from anything else except assaulting women.  As president, he has a vast array of problems to resolve and plenty of people and subjects to snipe at when answers to the problems go begging.

To make matters worse, he also doesn’t understand that his leadership is central to the solving of these problems, as evidenced by his habit of always blaming someone or something else for the failure to do so.  Frankly, I suspect that the concept of leadership is as foreign to him as the notion of how to catch the Roadrunner was to Wile E. Coyote.

In a corporate world not owned by Mr. Trump, he would have been fired long ago – assuming the organization had made the mistake of hiring him in the first place.  As I noted above, naysayers possess too much risk of upsetting corporate progress if they are loud enough, and are only kept on the payroll if they possess a key skill that no other employee possesses.

Mr. Trump lacks any of the key skills demanded by the presidency.  The only one he even makes a somewhat credible case for is negotiation.  He loudly and repeatedly asserts that he is a good negotiator, but negotiation demands a certain minimum level of trust among those negotiating – trust that is rarely achieved when a negotiator is committed solely to bluster as his or her primary method of negotiation.  Pounding on the table has a very limited role in good negotiation and should be reserved for the rare occasions where the goal of the negotiations has been forgotten by the other side.  Good negotiators possess good humor, the ability to listen carefully, and the ability to resolve not only their own problems or those of their clients, but those of the opposing negotiators and their clients as well.

Mr. Trump rarely offers solutions, and when he does it is from a paper placed in his hands by the trusted subordinate of the moment.  Left to his own devices, he offers only bluster and condemnation.  These are the only things that bring him satisfaction in the context of a deal.  His sole negotiating tactic is the shout, and he treats each shout as a victory in and of itself even though the underlying issue at hand remains unresolved.  From his vantage point – that of a bully whose will must be imposed to avoid losing face – resolution of the actual problem involved is much less important than scoring a good putdown.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Lloyd Bentsen addressed to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential debate: “Mr. President, I’ve negotiated hundreds of contracts.  I know and understand good negotiation tactics.  I’ve negotiated with the best of the best.  Mr. President, you’re not in their league.  In fact, you are a poor negotiator, and the proof of that assertion can be found in your all too frequent assertions to the contrary.  Real negotiators haven’t any need to brag.  They are known by the consistent quality of the results they produce.”

Given his inability to come up with solutions to obvious problems, it beggars belief that Mr. Trump has any ability to plan with respect to an assault on a complicated problem – such as an election strategy to become president of the United States.  You might well argue that he had others to do the planning for him as shown by the fact that he won; but he went through so many different campaign managers with such astounding rapidity that to argue he followed a consistent logical electoral path to the presidency is to overlook all the paths he started down only to abandon when the latest campaign manager left town.

No, Mr. Trump is an accidental president, as evidenced by the total popular vote and by his own surprise and that of his family when he was pronounced the victor on election night.  No reasonable, sane electorate would ever have elected him president given a true choice and absent the bitter divisions fragmenting our society and the very fertile soil in which those divisions have been allowed to grow in cancerous spurts.

So here we are, saddled with an accidental president – a chronic naysayer who has never heeded Thumper’s advice even once in his life.  Admittedly, I am also not heeding Thumper in this piece, but I have a reason: the emperor truly has no clothes on and someone needs to point out that it’s well past time for every thinking person in this country, regardless of their place on the political spectrum or their party loyalties, to recognize that fact and begin to plan as a community for how we will move forward when his term ends.

One thing is certain.  He won’t be helping us do the planning, and he needs to be put in a corner while the rest of us do it; a corner where his ongoing negativity and naysaying will do the least harm to our country.

Oh, and a dunce cap wouldn’t be amiss.

About Gavin Stevens

Humptulips County is the wholly fictional on-line residence of Stephen Ellis, a would-be writer, an avid fan of William Faulkner and his Yoknapatawpha County, and a retired lawyer.
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