Leading with Emotion

Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America in the most improbable way. He had never won any kind of elected office in his life. His own party campaigned against him and he still won. He was outspent by his Democratic opponent. He did not have nearly as many on-the-ground resources as Hillary Clinton. His campaign staff was in disarray for most of the primary and general elections. He was not the best orator. Yet, he still won despite a divided voting public. How did he do it?

He followed Maya Angelou’s advice. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Mr. Trump connected with people’s emotions.

He did what good leaders do. He established a narrative. He spoke about it with passion and he repeated it over and over. It didn’t matter if he got all the details correct. What counted was he connected with his supporter’s pain over trade deals, border security, illegal immigration and the off-shore migration of jobs. And he convinced his legions of voters that the Washington, DC inside-the-beltway gang and other so-called political elites were the source of his constituent’s anxiety.

He popularized two missives that will go down as some of the most effective political phrases of all time-drain the swamp and make America great again. He perfected a free political advertising strategy by utilizing an online news and social networking service with endless political messages to his followers that were limited to 140 characters. He got the memo that many Americans can only read between a 7th to 8th grade reading level.

A couple of unlikely people who make their living on relating to their customers through emotional means, Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and Christian spirituality author Donald Miller, predicted a Trump victory.

Adams called Mr. Trump the master persuader and Miller credited him with helping people make sense of a complicated world by reframing it into a simple story. He tapped into the emotional side of the electorate. His admirers followed him with their emotional selves as opposed to their rational identities. He eschewed logic and aimed for people’s hearts.

He took a page out of the playbook of Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Say exactly what is on your mind. He did not say what people wanted him to say oftentimes ignoring the advice of political sages. He did it his way.

He offered citizens hope. He convinced them that he was the one to lead them to a brighter tomorrow. He told us what he stood for, what he stood against and who he stands with.

At the end of day, whether or not you agree with President Trump’s politics, he did what all good leaders do. They allow their followers to be the heroes of an ongoing story. A story that remains to be written by us all.

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Hank Snerdley

Politicians often misunderstand the difference between “want” and “need”. They present the voting public with what they have ascertained that is a “want”, but framed as if it were a “need”. Trump did the opposite, I think he told people what they needed to here, rather than what they wanted to hear, and it resonated at a level that many folks probably didn’t themselves understand. You can’t argue with success.