The most significant statement made in last night’s Fox News debate was one that didn’t generate much attention at the time, although it appears to be sinking in this morning.
Donald Trump doubled down on his claim that women and children related to terrorists are fair game to be killed. The sins of the fathers will be visited on the children, apparently, in a Trump administration. (Not the sins of his father after being being arrested at KKK rally, of course.)
When Trump was challenged that military leaders would never comply with his horrific dictates, he replied that they would do what I tell them to do. That’s what leadership is.
Wow. Just, wow.
I had no idea Trump had no idea what leadership is. I figured he was just feigning ignorance as part of his act. But no. He really has no idea how to lead anyone not on his payroll.
As horrific as his desire to commit war crimes may be, his definition of leadership is even more disturbing because it has implications on everything.
It’s been my privilege to observe some highly effective leaders and to study their wisdom for more than two decades. John C. Maxwell, widely recognized as the top leadership guru alive today, sums up the critical impact leadership has across the board: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Maxwell also defined leadership in a different way than Trump, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Maxwell famously gave us his 5 Levels of Leadership paradigm to illustrate how influence grows. It begins with positional leadership–the lowest level of influence–where people follow us because we have a title.
It is the place most of us start, but it is the weakest level of leadership. It is where people follow you because they have to. They know their job is on the line so they go along, whether they want to or not.
Positional leadership is what fledgling shift managers at McDonald’s use to get teens to follow their lead. It is the flimsiest influence one can wield, yet Trump claims it as his very definition of leadership.
They will do what I tell them to do because I tell them to do it. At best, he is relying on his position as Commander-in-Chief (shudder) to be sufficient. Worse, he’s appealing to the same sort of magical Trump mystique that fleeced thousands in Trump University.
Either way, we have a problem. It is exactly the approach Obama took — I won, you lost. Do what I want.
All he’ll have to do is tell them to do it and they will do it. Why? Because he is in charge. He has a title. He is Trump.
This is how he’s going to get things done? By telling people to do it and they will? Seriously?
If he actually believes that he is seriously deluded.
We’re talking about ordering military leaders to violate their conscience, leaders who’ve built their entire careers around understanding influence in order to rise–not because they have a position, but because their leadership has merited the position.
That kind of influence must be earned over time, not dictated by decree.
But even if Trump could earn it, note well what he would tell them to do–violate their conscience.
He would order military men and women to kill the wives and children of terrorists. His fanboy Vladamir Putin would never admit to such war crimes on television.
Even Jack Bauer of 24 fame wouldn’t go that far. Come to think of it, a Trump Presidency would feel a lot like like living in a never-ending season of 24.
At what point would an exhausted nation tire of saying no to Trump’s immoral commands and simply let her conscience be raped–just to get it over with?
Don’t tell me that Trump will nominate judges to defend our freedom of conscience and religious liberty when he would expect military leaders to set aside their conscience to obey his murderous commands.
What was Trump’s message last night to military leaders who would refuse to kill women and children?
You will be made to care.
And here I thought we were trying to select a leader who would help extinguish the cultural wildfire, not pour gasoline on it.