Your company might be Donald Trump if…

For all the people who can’t believe how a person like Donald Trump could possibly be electable, consider this:

A surprising amount of the criticisms directed towards Trump can actually be found in common workplace behavior.

It may not be in such a bold format or on as big of a national stage, but the characteristics are undeniably similar.

Spend a few minutes with me to find out if your company fits the profile.

#1: Your company might be Donald Trump if…you let huge egos dominant the workplace.

“I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.” (Donald Trump in Fortune, April 3, 2000)

The NY Times ran a terrific article last week called, “What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.”

The author, Charles Duhigg, tells the fascinating narrative of Project Aristotle – Google’s attempt to study and understand what truly makes a team great. After several years of research, testing, surveying, and analysis of 180 internal teams, they landed on a single driving force: group norms.

Specifically, there were two group norms which defined the greatest teams at Google.

1/ Great teams shared the conversation equally throughout the day

2/ Great teams had high social sensitivity. They could sense the unspoken feelings of others and cared enough to act upon them.


Unfortunately, very few companies can claim these two norms as standard operating behavior. Instead, there’s often one or a handful of dominant egos in the room, dominating the conversation, ignoring the feelings of others, and causing fear in their colleagues.


#2: Your company might be Donald Trump if…you validate your decisions using irrational logic.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters. It’s, like, incredible.” (Trump at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa. January 23, 2016)

Teams love a good leader. A person who casts a clear vision, can rally people behind that vision, and makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.

The greatest leaders though can validate that vision with logic. They lay out the plan, talk intelligently about the problem at hand, and are not afraid to dialogue about the solution.

On the flip side are leaders who are not open to questions, and shut down intelligent dialogue by becoming overly defensive. Dr. Sherrie McGregor lists our some examples of irrational thoughts in an article for Psych Central. Do any of these sound familiar:

  • Catastrophizing
  • Grandiosity
  • Leaps in logic
  • All or nothing thinking
  • Delusional thinking

Often, the use of irrational logic and defensiveness represents one of two flaws:

  1. Ignorance about the subject
  2. Fear of losing control


Break down your walls of irrational logic by inviting meaningful conversation and critique. There’s often a smarter way to get where you’re trying to go and new voices can help you discover it.

#3: Your company might be Donald Trump if…your aspirations for the future are vague at best.

“What I say is what I say.” (Trump in the Republican presidential debate, Aug. 6, 2015)

You don’t have to look far to find a company whose mission and vision are more vague aspiration than actionable or practical goals. Here’s a perfect example:

“To become the best company in the entire world at providing the highest quality customer service.”

Claxton Marketing, a nonprofit consultancy, has a tool on their website to test the impact of the words you use in your mission statement. The premise is that the more companies using the word, the less impact that word will have.

I typed the word, “best,” into the tool and here’s what it revealed…

STOP – that word is way overused!

Or in other words, the less specific a word/phrase is to your organization, the more aspirational and less actionable it becomes.

Cut through the noise by laying out specific milestones which, although still a stretch, are within reach. (and you’ll know when you hit them)

#4: Your company might be Donald Trump if…you believe you are better than your competitors simply because you are better than they are.

“You want to know something? I’m a better person than the people I’m running against. I see it. Let me tell you.” (Trump in speech on Feb. 22, 2016)

As a marketing and branding consultant, I’m constantly pressing companies to tell me their positioning, or competitive advantage. There’s no response more common than, “We’re just better than them. Our product is better. Our people are better.”

If you’re unable to articulate beyond, ‘better,’ you have some work to do. Start with a few probing questions:

  • What one specific thing do you do better than anyone else in your industry?
  • Who does that matter to the most?
  • Why does it matter to them?
  • How does it make them feel as a result?

Companies who spend the time to gain clarity on these four questions can own their category and charge a premium for their products/services.

If you can’t set aside the time, or don’t know how to get started, partner with a branding agency.

Final advice: High culture teams will consistently outperform teams who have more talent, money, opportunity, etc.

Culture (Donald) trumps everything.

Derek Gillette
About the author: 

Derek Gillette is a marketer with Cisco, and formerly led marketing and strategy at States of Matter, a full-service design agency for consumer and tech brands based in Seattle, WA.  He has been in Founder and management roles for the Found Series  and PushPay.  Follow him on Twitter.