Future & Values and Donald Trump


I just returned from New York. Opening up any TV-channel or reading any newspaper all you see or hear is one word: Trump. Or two: Donald Trump. Everywhere I met Americans, at some point, sooner than later, people started to talk about Trump. Passing the west side of Manhattan along Hudson river, I could observe how several big blockhouses, all of them wearing Trump’s name, stand like totems reminding how Trump’s family made his fortune.

We can observe growing number of determined reaction on Trump’s success: Some days back, Jon Stewart, a celebrity and talk show host, declared – on the possibility that Trump gets into office - that he would get in a rocket and think about going to another planet because this planet ”has gone bonkers”. Apple stated they will move their headquarters for the same reason. I heard a lot of similar statements.

Trump seems to have become a phenomenon against which Americans are testing whether they are living in a civilized country or not. Trump is calling out personal leadership, our ability to anchor ourselves into the values we believe and act upon that. My friend Russell Dale, a New Yorker and University philosophy teacher, put it well: Trump forces us to express what we really believe in.

As it looks like, these are indeed times we need to anchor ourselves into our values. Research show consistently that the greatest source of personal motivation comes from our feeling of being in control of our decisions. Loyalty is a great thing but enthusiasm grows most likely in the environment, where you feel you have a autonomy to express yourselves.

This was closely examined at Google, known as a great place to work. They examined closely for years, why certain teams in the company perform so much better than the others. They ended up noting that is certainly not a matter of individuals or their backgrounds. Much more than that, it was dependent on cultural norms and behaviors each team followed. They came up with the conclusion that key contributing factors for sustained excellent performance were resting on two factors: the sense of togetherness and simultaneous encouragement of people to have an opportunity to express themselves at all times.

From anchoring perspective we might say that to be connected to ourselves we need a certain feeling of safety and freedom. With the first one, it is really the “psychological safety”, the feeling that I can express my authentic voice in a group. If this is not the case, it is quite likely that I am not going to give all of myself. Secondly, freedom translates to social sensitivity which means we are open to listen what others have to say.

Anchoring ourselves to what we believe in seems to be the call of our times. In his famous Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs reminded how important it is that we keep connected to our heart and intuition at all times, and at any price. He certainly did that, even though it caused many times major collision with other people’s ideas. Looking backwards, we often find that insistence for things we value gives reward, even if it is not visible at first.

Leadership, at he end of the day, is a very personal issue. We need to, as individuals, express ourselves through our lives and this innate urge is just growing all around the planet, shown by research. Simultaneously, it happens best if we are working with people we feel connected and supported. I also think that more often than ever before, it means that sometimes we simply need to stand out and say what we truly believe in even if it can shock people and have severe consequences.

As said, Donald Trump is here to provoke ourselves to anchor our own and real values. Do we allow racist opinions? Certainly not, if somebody asks this from us. People like Donald Trump help us to reconnect what is important and valuable in our lives and in our society.