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Business Owners

Leadership Do’s and Don’ts from the 2016 Presidential Candidates


The first presidential primaries are rapidly approaching. For CEOs and business leaders, the race offers a helpful primer in leadership strategies to adopt — as well as those to avoid.

Here are a few leadership do’s and don’ts from our 2016 candidates.


1. Be confident.

How else would Trump have gotten so far? Love him or loath him, Trump himself is the engine behind his political machine. He refuses to admit error. He constantly talks himself up. He doesn’t let flubs or holes in his knowledge slow him down.

Trump may have been influenced by pastor Norman Vincent Peale, who according to a recent Politico article, advocated such lessons as “formulate and staple indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding” and “make a true estimate of your own ability, then raise it 10 percent.”

You don’t have to take self-aggrandizement to Trump-like extremes. But if you don’t build yourself up, who will?

2. Don’t default to the offensive.

Bernie Sanders won’t play by politics’ rules. When the world wouldn’t stop talking about Hillary Clinton’s e-correspondence, Sanders said what we all wanted to: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” When Donald Trump wouldn’t stop talking about Hillary’s bathroom break during a December debate: “I also went to the bathroom… I’ve got to admit it.”

By positioning himself as above the fray, Sanders has gained the respect of those across the aisle. He also puts Hillary in a difficult position, as his good-ol’-pal support makes it harder for her to throw nasty barbs his way.

It’s a good lesson for all leaders — before you take part in a firing squad, consider carefully what it’ll convey about you and your company’s values.


1. Underestimate your competition.

Hillary, we’re looking at you. A few months ago, her campaign took one look at self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders and laughed. Now, with Clinton and Sanders dead even in Iowa (according to the Iowa CNN Poll of Polls), that devil-may-care attitude is coming back to haunt them. According to the New York Times, advisors “believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks… and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement.”

In business as in politics, nothing is guaranteed. Hillary should have learned that in 2008, but it may take another race to really hammer the lesson home.

If you’ve been at the top of the heap for generations, now is not the time to rest. If you’re a hungry upstart looking to break in, have faith — with hard work and the right messaging, your David may just beat Goliath.

2. Rest on your laurels.

Here’s where Jeb Bush went wrong. The candidate once billed as inevitable has “struggled to come to terms with his brother’s ideology” and been criticized for “being vague or unengaged,” according to a New Yorker article several months ago. He’s “an establishment candidate running at a time when anti-establishment candidates are in vogue,” says the BBC.

Jeb won the hearts of donors early on, but he hasn’t been able to do the same with voters. The lesson here? Don’t expect that your name or reputation will precede you. As a business leader, do the hard work of clarifying what your company or product stands for before releasing it to the public. Market research is key — you need to have the finger on the pulse of now, not five or ten years ago.

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