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What is this issue all about?


Leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization so that it can function successfully. An organization depends on the leadership abilities of its managers. Leadership begins with those in the top position who set the tone and direct the actions of others. The top leader needs leadership qualities, some of which can be learned, while others are character traits. This issue takes a specific look at current US leadership as exemplified by the most challenging leadership initiative of our times, the COVID 19 response.

Talking Points:


Leadership Qualities:  Leadership experts in business and academia have discussed and debated the tenets, values, and character of great leaders throughout history, and agree that the best among them possess a handful of values and qualities that are imperative to outstanding leadership.


1. Communication: The ability to communicate involves communicating content and strategies internally and externally. Good bosses always have an open ear for their employees’ concerns and successful communication requires a diplomatic touch.


HOW? An inexcusable bevy of misstatements. Trump’s inability to clearly communicate is making the government’s coronavirus pandemic response seem like chaos. A leader needs to effectively communicate in a global crisis. Presidents do not need to be accomplished orators to effectively lead during crises, but they need to demonstrate that they understand the gravity of the situation and have the ability to deliver a consistent message.


2. Example: Leaders also function as role models, as bosses are always being observed. Supervisors who need something from their employees that they themselves will not do quickly lose their credibility.


HOW? Masks: Health experts say the evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the more people wearing masks, the better. It is expected that our leaders would recognize and demonstrate consistent mask use.  Trump not only fails to demonstrate this, but he also has failed time and again to even support the concept.


3. Readiness to take on and delegate responsibility:  Someone must be the one to make decisions and assume responsibility, and that person is generally the boss. However, leadership skills can also be seen as an ability to surrender responsibility and to delegate tasks. Those who pass the responsibility on to their employees motivate them and ensure their loyalty.

HOW? ‘I don’t take responsibility at all’: Trump deflects blame for coronavirus testing fumble. He has abdicated responsibility to lead but has lead in blaming others for many missteps during the pandemic. He has even gone so far as to ridicule and belittle the experts he should depend upon for direction in this health crisis.


4. Motivation: Take care of the people on the team. Motivating employees, inspiring them, and fostering enthusiasm for projects is one of the most important leadership qualities and a key to success because only motivated employees are good employees.

HOW? Staff turnover: Average employee turnover is 18%. Trump’s White House has experienced 88% turnover to date, the highest of any president, over twice as high as turnover when Joe Biden was Vice President.

HOW? Instability and high turnover on the Trump staff hindered the response to COVID 19. “it is even more difficult when only 8 of the 30 Trump attendees are still working for the president.” Failure to accept expert advice followed by the removal of those experts has caused chaos at the top.


5. Recognize and foster potential. Managers with leadership qualities have a keen sense of how people tick: they recognize special abilities and know how to use them for the company. Instead of being scared of potential competitors, such managers encourage talented and motivated employees to transform them into new leaders. Trump is quick to yell, upbraid and hold his staff accountable for his own mistakes.

HOW? As pandemic deepens, Trump cycles through targets to blame: “ First, it was the media that was at fault. Then, Democratic governors came under fire. China, President Obama and federal watchdogs have all had a turn in the crosshairs. And now it’s the World Health Organization that’s to blame. President Trump is falling back on familiar political strategy as he grapples with the coronavirus pandemic: deflect, deny, and direct blame elsewhere.”


6. Tolerate mistakes: Refuse to evaluate errors and change course when presented with new information. Mistakes happen, and no one is immune. But one learns from mistakes. Thus, as the boss, you should show a certain degree of tolerance for mistakes. Instead of getting angry and criticizing, you should work together to analyze mistakes so that they are not repeated. Employees who are afraid of mistakes and of their supervisor’s response cannot work effectively or freely.

HOW?  White House Seeks To Discredit Fauci In Memo Leaked To Reporters The White House has taken the unusual step of attacking a member of its coronavirus task force, by providing a document to several media outlets that contain a list of comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci in an effort to damage his reputation. The comments were first reported by the Washington Post. The news of the document comes as two senior level White House sources tell ABC News that Fauci has at times been referred to among aides to President Donald Trump as “Dr. Gloom and Doom.” (Faulders and Santucci, 7/13)  The comments noted in the memo were determined to be accurate at the time they were made.  As information changed, the recommendation of Dr. Fauci also changed.


7. Flexibility: Supervisors must be able to adjust their leadership style to suit the situation. This requires flexibility and intuition.

HOW?: Autocratic leaders make decisions by themselves, not listening to others, trusting gut feeling. They have very little flexibility. They set goals they feel are right and demand that people meet them. An example of this type of leadership is Donald J Trump.


8. Set goals and expectations:  Employees can only work in a goal-oriented manner when you clearly explain what you expect of them and communicate any changes when they are made. Those who give their team challenging tasks with clear, realistic deadlines can expect good results.

HOW? Testing. As an example, if there are 10 pregnant women in a room and only 1 pregnancy test, which is positive, how many pregnant women are in the room? 1 or 10? In a June 15 tweet, President Trump said testing “makes us look bad.” At his campaign rally in Tulsa five days later, he said he had asked his “people” to “slow the testing down, please.” At a White House press conference last week, he told reporters, “When you test, you create cases.” And in an interview with Fox News that aired that Sunday, Trump could not have been clearer: “Cases are up because we have the best testing in the world and we have the most testing.” Basically, the president was arguing that the U.S. had just as many new cases in June and July as it did in May but, with fewer tests being done in May, they weren’t being detected; with more testing now, they are.

In a July 2020 STAT analysis of testing data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, however, shows with simple-to-understand numbers why Trump’s claim is wrong. In only seven states was the rise in reported cases from mid-May to mid-July driven primarily by increased testing. In the other 26 states — among the 33 that saw cases increase during that period — the case count rose because there was actually more disease. May had brought signs of hope that the U.S. had gotten its Covid-19 outbreak under control, with about 20,000 new cases reported per day after April highs closer to 30,000. But by late June, the daily count climbed to about 40,000, and now it’s at about 70,000. The STAT analysis shows that spread of the virus, far more than testing, explains that increase.

HOW? The United States population is 4.25% of the 16,575,668, total world population. July 27,2020 there are 4,418,955 cases in the United States. The United States COVID 19 cases are 26.66%.  If the United States had the same number of COVID 19 cases as the general world population, we would only have 4.25% of the cases, an equal number of cases to our share of the world population, or 708,466.


HOW? The US crosses 4 million COVID 19 cases as the daily new cases accelerate.
It took 99 days to hit 1 million cases, 44 days to hit 2 million cases, 26 days to hit 3 million cases and just 15 days to hit 4 million cases.



9.  Self-reflection. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, even supervisors. The more aware you are of your own abilities/deficits and the more open you are about them, the more successful you will be as a leader. Numerous leadership experts find that one of the most important aspects of good leadership is accepting criticism. Leaders who surround themselves with honest brokers who give candid feedback they listen to make better decisions and are better leaders than the ones who do not.


HOW?Coronavirus crisis highlights Trump’s resistance to criticism.  There have been numerous times that Trump has made inaccurate statements about many issues in the pandemic. When he has questions or criticized for these mistakes he has ‘doubled down’ on his original statements.  He seems to have no capacity to accept correction and no sense that he has been wrong.  He has made statements that cause belief that he sees this criticism as a means of attacking him and causing people to dislike him.  He sees much of this as a popularity issue, stating “And he’s got this high approval rating. So why don’t I have a high approval rating with respect — and the administration — with respect to the virus? We should have it very high. So it sort of is curious,” Trump said, “a man works for us, with us, very closely, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx also, very highly thought of — and yet, they’re highly thought of, but nobody likes me? It can only be my personality, that’s all,” he said.



HOW? In contrast, one does not need to look farther than Trump’s twitter account to see how poorly he handles criticism.


10. Authenticity with No empathy. Even when you are the boss you should be yourself and find your own individual style of leadership. Those who pretend to be something they are not or hide behind their role of supervisor come across as unauthentic and over time will not be successful leaders.

HOW? Trumps inability to understand other perspectives and appreciate the experiences and expertise of others made him a poor businessman and it makes him a bad leader and president.

Facts and Resources:


The table below indicates the number of occupants in pandemic-related positions for the Trump, Obama, and Bush administrations.

The numbers boldly illustrate the extraordinary amount of turnover across these pandemic-related White House jobs. Of these White House positions deemed central to “respond to major domestic incidents,” only the Director of the OSTP has had a single occupant.


5. Recognize and foster potential.


6. Tolerate mistakes:  Refuse to evaluate errors and change course when presented with new information.


7. Flexibility: Supervisors must be able to adjust their leadership style to suit the situation. This requires flexibility and intuition.


8. Set goals and expectations. Do what is right in the long term. Do not succumb to short term pressures.