“And so it came to pass
that our saviours gave us a gift of tragedy
for which we are too dumb-struck to find a melody.”
The original reason for writing this series of articles was to apply the Integral Organization Model to the very public machinations of the Trump Administration. This provided foresight into the possible futures of this administration which so far has proved accurate. As we watch this play out we can also draw parallels to our own organizations, more on this later.
After the first year of the Trump Administration we can see all the moving parts realigning themselves into a new world order. The low level of President Trump’s vertical development (Opportunist/Power Leader) means that he is unable to provide the leadership that is required, not only for America, but also for the rest of the world.
As more and more people realise that they cannot look for leadership from President Trump they are starting to fill in the vacuum themselves.
This is what happened during the brief government shutdown when senators from both parties started meeting to put together an agreement to keep the lights on. It didn’t come from President Trump, it also didn’t come from the leadership of either party because they were stuck in a political paralysis. It came from the rank and file of Congress. If ever President Trump wanted to act presidential this was the opportunity. Over the intervening weekend he could have gathered both sides of politics into the White House and metaphorically scolded them like the school children that they were acting. Instead he joined in with the school yard name calling.
This has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world.
As noted in the earlier posts by isolating America through; withdrawing from trade deals, the climate accord and reducing overseas aid, this has created a vacuum for nations like China and Russia to step in. China’s One Belt, One Road project along with providing aid to countries has made them the new global power. Contrast President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in 2017 where he spoke about the importance of a global world to that of President Trump’s in 2018 promoting America First. There was a slight repositioning where it was explained that America First didn’t mean America Alone. What President Trump is unable to understand, due to his low level of vertical development, is that America Alone is exactly where he is leading the country.
As the map above shows China’s globalization plan is linking more than two thirds of the world’s population creating a massive economic region. This doesn’t include the billions of dollars they are spending in Africa. What is missing from this map, the country that is standing alone, is America. Trains are now delivering goods from the east coast of China to Europe and on to London in fifteen days. About the same time that the fastest cargo ship takes to travel to the USA.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) of twelve countries, that has an objective of countering China’s expansion, is now moving forward but without the USA. This was led by two of America’s strong allies, Australia and Japan. In fact, the meeting to agree on continuing the TPP without America was held at a conference in the days after President Trump visited Japan, with President Trump at the same conference. As the NAFTA re-negotiations drag on both Canada and Mexico have signed up to the TPP.
France are encouraging climate change scientists to come and work there. Canada, Australia and many other countries see the current times as an opportunity to reverse the brain drain. The message is that as smart, educated, immigrants you will be welcomed in our countries.
South Korea are holding talks with North Korea. A strong incentive for South Korea to ignore President Trumps fire and fury negotiation approach is that if war does break out it is their country that will be attacked, not America.
Why is this happening?
President Trump published his negotiation book, “The Art of the Deal” in 1987. In 1981, the late Richard Fisher (professor at Harvard Law School) co-authored the negotiation book, “Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In”, with a follow up book in 1988, “Getting Together, Building Relationships As We Negotiate”. A key concept that Fisher puts forward is the BATNA, Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is not the bottom line or walk away position. This is the brainstorming of better alternatives than having to accept the terms being offered by the counterparty. The TPP without America, China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, China’s Aid funding, France opening the doors to scientists are all examples of BATNAs. When we fail to understand the value of our counterparty’s BATNA we end up alone.
But wait, here is another scary thought.
Can we take these same observations and apply them to our own organization? Are there awkward parallels inside our organisation to the dysfunctional partisan politics that lead to a government shutdown, the decision making along political/departmental lines, the entrenched internal positions and the brinkmanship. Maybe what happens in our organization is not as overt, that is less use of twitter. But when we reflect on our budget allocation process, workforce allocations, slow decision making, internal politics on who is at fault for non-delivery, there are definitely common themes here.
The lesson here is that the chief executive officer’s vertical development level becomes the lowest common denominator of the organization’s operating model. If this is at a low level that is as good as it gets! Over time this will drive out executives and middle management that are operating at a higher vertical development level. They will exercise their BATNAs and say, “this is not worth it, I am going to work where people want t use my skills”. That is because when people use higher order reasoning to explain what needs to be done their CEO’s won’t understand. In the Trump administration we are seeing this with people leaving not only from the White House staff but also members of congress not standing for re-election and employees of departments like the FBI and Department of Justice who have come under attack from the Opportunist/Power Leader.
For those that stay the way to move forward is to work across the organization in the middle ranks. When the American government was shut down President Trump didn’t step in and call all parties together. It was left to twenty senators from both parties, led by Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Joe Manchin, to meet together and work out a solution which was mutually acceptable. When we find ourselves in the same situation inside our organisation instead of looking up, we need to look across. Decisions are now made based on the Decision Equilibrium Point. Of course, this is not ideal but is too often our reality. Complete failure of leadership is when the people stop looking up and take matters into their own hands. We saw this with the Arab Spring and we may see it with groups of people across America such as; the women's march, NFL players kneeling and school children banding together to protest against gun violence.
The answer, as found by Jim Collins in “Good to Great” and Elliot Jaques in “Requisite Organization”, starts with the Chief Executive Office of the country, company or organization having the required vertical development level in order to lead their people to success. Anything less leads to mediocrity which is the path America are currently on.
During the next year the mid-term elections will only exacerbate everything we have witnessed to date. This will be the time for President Trump’s leadership to shine; to lead everyone through the politics, in-fighting, brinkmanship and dysfunctional behaviour. Unfortunately, with the vertical development level of the Opportunist/Power Leader, he can’t.
What is Vertical Development?
Jim Collins described levels of leaders in his book Good to Great. He found that the critical success factor for an organization is that the CEO must be at Level 5 of vertical development. This aligns to the academic research of Elliot Jaques, William Torbert, Kurt Fisher and more. To explain this Collins used the story of the Window and the Mirror to explain the difference between a Level 5 versus the comparison (Opportunist/Power) leaders;
“Level 5 leaders look out the window to apportion credit to factors outside themselves when things go well (and if they cannot find a specific person or event to give credit to, they credit good luck). At the same time, they look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming bad luck when things go poorly. The comparison leaders did just the opposite. They’d look out the window for something or someone outside themselves to blame for poor results, but would preen in front of the mirror and credit themselves when things went well” Jim Collins, Good to Great.
As people observe President Trump’s behavior they are starting to question President Trump’s mental stability. This is a misplaced diagnosis. What people are perceiving is the disconnect between their observations of President Trump’s behavior and their own worldview of how the President of the United States of America should act. The disconnect comes from a misunderstanding of vertical development. That is, the fact that we all develop to various levels of vertical development given three factors; potential, time and opportunity. President Trump has developed only to a lower level of vertical development which is being characterized as mental instability.
The description of President Trump as a Power Leader comes from the large body of work on vertical development of people which is wonderfully summarized by Tony Zampella in his piece; “Trump’s Leadership Mindset: Is it Presidential?” Zampella explains how President Trump is operating at the Opportunist Level (what I have called Power Leader) and backs up his claim from the academic research. He concludes that President Trump is not acting “Presidential” as he summarises;
“Opportunist is the only mindset that falls outside presidential expectations and attributes “befitting the dignity and character of the presidency.” Its impulsive and juvenile nature in circumventing accountability is not a match for the immense responsibility of the office. Typically, nascent, emerging leaders outgrow this mindset. Most are challenged, or held accountable, by family, peers, and colleagues, and learn from mistakes.
Adult leaders remaining at the Opportunist stage, often surround themselves with those at later mindsets (conformist-diplomatic or expert) – like military generals, and former CEOs – to bring order and consistency to an enterprise.
Without the willingness to learn and grow from continued questioning, no amount of knowledge, procedure, study, or policy can account for, or alter, the power of mindset, which governs attitude, affect, and focus.” Zampella
The key point is in the final paragraph of Zampella’s summary. That is, President Trump will not learn, grow or change. If at his age he hasn’t progressed passed his current level of vertical development of Opportunist/Power Leader, it is highly unlikely that he ever will.
Given this, the mid-term elections and the realignment of the global players the end result is that the dysfunction we have observed in the first year of the Trump Administration will only get worse.
As always stay tuned!