A perspective on LeadingHarvard Universityâ€™s Howard Gardner, one of Americaâ€™s most interesting psychologists, who applied a cognitive lens to leadership famously, said â€œEffective leaders create new stories that successfully wrestle with stories that already populated the minds of their followersâ€. In this piece we look at three specific characteristics of the leadership personas of the two candidates, how they came across to their electorates, and how it may have influenced people on their choices.
1. Communicating change and buy-in:Three weeks before the election campaign we ran a course on the psychology of change for 25 CEOs. We started this session with a slide and footage of Hillary and Trumps focusing on how they came across on change. It was clear that Trump appealed to the emotional side of his audience and Hillary for the longest time in her campaign was happy to rattle off statistics. Her arguments were rational. They probably appealed to the intellectual elite. When we want to drive change, the rational argument is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. According to Chip and Dan Heath (popularised in their book Switch), to make change easy for people to adopt, you have to get them in touch with your feelings and Trump was a master of creating that kind of impact. A bigger enemy, visualization of a wallâ€¦ he got his audience in touch with his feelings.
2. AuthenticityWe interviewed a number of people, including some senior professors from UCL on their perceptions of the two candidates and how they came across. Trump, though despicable came across as authentic. He shared his flaws. He said he had beaten the system. People didnâ€™t mind. People even admired that, wishing they could be as successful as him. When tapes revealed his locker room talk, a personality flaw, Trump did not spend much time and effort on correcting it or trying to tow a politically correct line. Truly inspirational leaders selectively reveal weaknesses and dare to be different. In their work on â€œWhy should anyone be lead by you?â€ Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones argue that leaders don't become great by aspiring to a list of universal character traits, and Trump trumped this one. Hillary neither revealed weaknesses - in-fact she spent enormous energy covering them up - nor did she dare to be different. People did not trust Hillary, she was too opaque. When accused of buying cheap steel from China, and bankrupting organisations to his own benefit, Trump was quick to admit he had done so because the system allowed it. The system was broken and because of how he had gotten around all the loopholes, he and not the establishment was best placed to fix it. It added to his credibility. People believed him.
3. Influencing through pre-suasion and not just persuasionNot only were Trumpâ€™s messages consistent, they were pre-suasive. In the latest work by Robert CialdiniÂ a solid influencer persuades by pre-suasion. At a talk given by Robert Cialdini earlier this month at @RSAevents, he summarised his new work by suggesting that people who can get their audience to focus on the precise of goal of their message and before delivering that message, create a mindset (through words, images, situations) that is consistent of that goal, significantly improve their power to persuade. A classic technique use by people strong at influencing is that through movements before their message they create a mindset of receptiveness for those they seek to influence. Clinton and Trump were equally good at using levers of influencing like social proof, and individual stories of personal condition. Where Trump triumphed was his emphasis on losses and putting people in a frame of mind that gave him a privileged reception of his message. People were losing their jobs to China, Mexico and others. By putting people in this frame of losses, a psychological chute of thinking, people only considered losses, losses that had occurred due to labour arbitrage or efficiency innovations that had taken away jobs through mechanisations. This positive test strategy failed to ask the reverse questions: people did not consider the opposite â€“had there been new opportunities? With a big common enemy (China, Mexico), stagnation of job creation, a man who had successfully beaten the system vowed to fix it and made it a compelling case of persuasion. According to Prospect Theory, the work that got Daniel Kahneman his Nobel prize, people in a loss frame of mind are likely to take riskier (all or nothing) decisions and that was one reason why the electorate was ready to take a gamble. Howard Gardner, mentioned earlier, did not distinguish between good and bad leaders from the perspective of social outcomes, he focussed on their effectiveness of their influencing. It just so happened that Trump was more effective as a leader - that he was able to create new stories that successfully wrestled and won over the existing ideas that populated the minds of his (new) followersâ€. Bottom line, he did a better job of getting his stories across.
Not all victories are idiosyncraticNationalism is up in India, in the UK, and now in countries like France, Holland and Austria. It's a trend Trump had picked up a long time ago. He shared these views early on in 2000, when he considered standing for president with the liberal reform party. Trump had been in touch with his electoral base for a while. People believed his Jacksonian politics - that the US should not take the lead in esoteric global problems just because US always has. And if you think that this is a bolt out of the blue, here is a man who has been consistent with his message on what he would do as a president from the 1980â€™s. Have a look at this video to see the consistency of Trumpâ€™s message: The long road to the white house from 1980 to 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCabT_O0YSM He just managed to increase that significantly to include what is called the â€œSpringsteenâ€ democratic base that effectively elected him. In the end his leadership persona as a change inspiring, authentic, and persuasive leader trumped that of Hillaryâ€™s.
Viren Lall, FRSA, Managing Director, ChangeSchool www.changeschool.orgÂhttps://www.london.edu/faculty-and-research/lbsr/is-president-trump-a-sign-of-the-times#.WDNEoGSLQ6U  The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York; Robert Caro, Published by Bodley Head, 2015  Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School, Adjunct professor of Neurology of at the Boston University School of Medicine. Author of fourteen books on leadership  From his seminal work Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership written in 1995  Switch: How to change things when change is hard, Chip and Dan Heath, 2011, Published by Random House Business Books  Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader byÂ Rob GoffeeÂ (Author),Â Gareth JonesÂ (Author)  Robert Cialdini was most famous for his previous work Â (Kahneman and Tversky 1979).  And contrary to popular belief, Trump did not decide to stand for President, post the humiliation he received from President Obama at the 2011 correspondents dinner