Several times in the course of the years I’ve been posting to this blog, I’ve urged Americans to choose leadership rather than management as a way to achieve. Recent discussions with readers have made me realize that it’s time to reappraise the role of leadership in American life. I have seen for the first time in my life leadership used for destruction of democracy.
Donald Trump has rarely relied on leadership. He has instead exploited the sycophancy of his base and the Republicans who support him to attack American democracy. In the end, he tried to overturn a legitimate election and establish himself as a dictator. He failed.
But when his worst moment came, he used leadership, as I define it, to attack the underpinnings of the country and maintain his presidency. On 6 January 2021, he called upon his followers to storm the Capitol and prevent the Congress from endorsing the election he had lost. It worked, to the detriment of all involved, until members of Congress refused to follow his lead.
Trump’s call for vandalism was not management or power grabbing. He summoned his followers to be the best that they could be—as defined in his credo—and restore him to power. The result was the savagery seen at the Capitol.
It was the first time I had ever witnessed leadership being manipulated against democracy. Trump’s actions made me realize that it is possible to abuse leadership. In retrospect, it is now clear to me that Hitler and Mussolini led their followers in seizing control and becoming dictators. Not force. Leadership.