Some unsolicited advice for President Trump

man and woman handshake

Yesterday, America’s shareholders came off the fence to reject what they considered a known, but unacceptable, risk in favor of an unknown one.

       Donald Trump will now get a lot of advice. My own version comes from having been the Managing Partner of a real estate development company (even larger than his), as well as having served as Chairman of his “hometown airline.”  Leadership is about change. Management is about accountability. The nation needs both.

       So, from perches that overlap Mr. Trump’s, I offer him the following unsolicited advice:

1.      Be practical. Become Chuck Schumer’s friend. You’re both New Yorkers and know how to make things happen to benefit everyone. Get on with what you can agree on. America will cheer you both as you restore what has so long been missing in our nation’s capital.

2.      Don’t pretend you have a mandate. The last President who did ignored prescient warnings. The rush to ram through legislation in order to “find out what’s in it” violated every principle of good governance. Don’t give in to such hubris.

3.      Borrow trust. Fairly or not, neither candidate was trusted by some two-thirds of all voters. Since trust is the currency that oils the gears of a civil society, you must secure what’s necessary to govern. You don’t have time to build the trust you’ll need; so recruit high-trust people. Reach across the aisle to people like Erskine Bowles (Clinton’s Chief of Staff) to play conciliatory roles that both sides can honor.  Too much is at stake to allow blame, partisanship and mistrust to get in the way.

4.      Don’t expect a miracle. We cannot talk our way out of problems we’ve behaved our way into. Some of our most critical issues have been a long time in the making. Bureaucracies represent the definition of inertia. Expect the pace of change, therefore, to be glacial compared with what you’re used to. You’re going to have to plant trees in whose shade you’ll never sit.

5.      Refine campaign rhetoric. Most importantly, recognize that: 1) Immigrants are fantastic contributors to both the American economy and the American spirit; and 2) Free trade is good for economic growth, prosperity and world peace. You already know both of these; so, now it’s time to make clear how you’ll 1) make immigration legal and fair, and 2) make trade fair and robust.

6.      Don’t treat government as a business. Your golden years will now be spent in service. You’ve been given a chance to repay the nation that has given your family so much. Put away your money-making instincts. More than being the most powerful person on the planet, you’re now a public servant. You work for those who granted you this highest honor. Your world-class deal-making instincts may serve you well in this; but governing the world’s largest and most complex institution is not like making a deal. Don’t confound the two.

7.      Listen without an agenda. Though you’ll be under pressure to do things quickly, figure out the lay of the land. Then, set priorities based on reality. As with any turnaround, go after the low-hanging fruit. Any turnaround leader will tell you that leading a transformation is hard work. I’d echo what Tom Landry said: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, (in order) to achieve what they want to achieve.” This means setting priorities upon which all can agree – even if not yet on the same page strategically.

8.      Make peace with the press. The nation doesn’t need an on-going soap opera or recrimination. Put away any lingering anger and negativity. The press knows it must restore its own credibility and needs room to address a perceived loss of objectivity.

9.      Show humility. Start with an apology to those offended in the heat of the campaign. It will make you bigger, not smaller, to recognize John McCain as a hero, to thank the Gold Star parents who lost their son in the service of the nation, and to assure women everywhere of an attitude of respect.

10.  Restore the long-lost spirit of cooperation. In the heat of a campaign, neither major party candidate gave the other any quarter. There was never a hint of goodwill or even cordiality. Yet it is the principle of comity that will prove that the American voter made the right choice. Without it, we’re in for a dark (and temporary) passage. As a builder, you’re uniquely positioned to sponsor real, economic, shovel-ready projects. And by showing respect for those in government already doing tough jobs, you can win them over. Talk with them. Listen to them. Take a page from Alan Mulally, who promoted the notion of “leading together” both at Boeing and at Ford, where he overcame political infighting.  Do what he did to build trust by acknowledging where you need help, sharing priorities, removing obstacles and fixing problems as a team.

Americans – on both sides of the aisle – stand by to help you in your new job.

By Joel Peterson