Some leaders inspire people to follow them by generally being cordial, polite, and respectful. Other leaders establish their dominance and demand obedience. Often these two styles get confused because leaders who use force, threats, and intimidation will sometimes inspire followers who like that style of management. So, either method can result in a populist following of enthusiastic supporters. This is why people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King had followers, but also leaders like Chairman Mao and Saddam Hussein had followers and perhaps some admirers.

The current U.S President would probably describe himself as being a leader who isn’t focused on being liked, but instead is wanting to lead from a position of strength and intimidation particularly with regard to international relations. Some people like that style of leadership. The following document reflects on the subtle differences in leadership style using the current U.S. President as an example.

Goals and Outcomes

Leaders who seek to inspire people to follow them by generally being cordial, polite, and respectful usually have multiple short-term and long-term goals in mind. For example, fostering goodwill and not burning bridges with people helps in the long term when seeking to accomplish other outcomes especially those that require collaboration and cooperation. Such leaders are usually considering parallel goals such as fostering dialog and promoting certain social values of respect, humility, forgiveness, generosity, and win-win outcomes. For example, politicians who refuse to run a negative campaign may sometimes lose an election, but they still promote civility as a secondary goal which has a positive impact on society and retains the respect people have for them.

Leaders who use intimidation and aggressive posturing generally seek a specific short-term goal. For example, in negotiations, the focused objective is to get the best possible deal without concern about offending someone or cutting ties with long-term allies. In other words, whatever it takes to win. There’s less concern about negative fallout. The ends justifies the means. Some people admire this approach because it ‘produces results’ when looking narrowly at specifically desired outcomes.

Diminishing Returns

It should be noted that there can be a point of diminishing returns, implosion, and self-destruction if a leader and the leader’s devotees demand unquestioning loyalty. If the belief system, policies, practices, and actions are not questioned or challenged, and if suggestions or feedback are no longer welcome, then the overall system and culture are unable to benefit from continuous improvement management practices. There may be serious flaws, but nobody will point out those flaws because they are fearful.

In such a system, it’s possible for things to go from bad to worse, yet be defined as improving by the many faithful believers. As a hypothetical example, we might point out that unemployment is at an all time low because everybody who wants a job has one. Yet, in reality, the overall quality of life for people could be diminishing, with people working multiple jobs yet being unable to afford to pay for healthcare or rent. Those who are devotees of the leader would pick and choose statistics that help reaffirm the overall belief that the leader makes things better. This is one example of many where such a system could ultimately result in an undesirable outcome for an entire society.


The following is a commentary from Anthony Scaramucci on the topic of leadership.


Leadership Style Timeline

The following news clips and Tweets offer some of the subtleties that distinguish the two types of leadership styles. With the one who leads by force, an expectation of obedience and loyalty becomes embraced by the followers. These examples are offered in chronological order to help show how the views change and develop over time. This post will be updated with new quotes and content as it becomes available.

Donald Trump – 15 Jun 2018

On 15 June 2018, President Trump was reported as saying:

“I want ‘my people’ to ‘sit up at attention’ like in North Korea”

Trump later said he was being sarcastic and joking, yet such humor can help reinforce a certain tone and style of leadership. A president using an alternate style of leadership might have said, “I’m thankful that in America, the land of the free, leaders earn respect and admiration rather than demanding it.”

Ronna McDaniel, GOP Chairwoman – 13 Jun 2018

Ronna McDaniel, the GOP Chairwoman, shared the following message in a Tweet on 13 June 2018:

“Complacency is our enemy. Anyone that does not embrace the @realDonaldTrump agenda of making America great again will be making a mistake.”

An alternative style of leadership might have inspired a different quote among high-level leaders such as: “Just a reminder that nobody is perfect. We welcome your feedback and suggestions. Let us know how we can better serve everyone.”

Notice the subtle difference. In one style of leadership, obedience is expected. In the other style of leadership, there’s more openness and a willingness to listen.

Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to the President – 13 Jun 2018

In a Fox News interview from 13 June 2018, Kellyanne Conway, the Senior Counselor to the President, is summarized as saying:

“People are bending to the will of President Trump.”

In the video, Conway describes Trump as “turning over the tables” in a subtle reference to Jesus turning over the tables. Such religious references are part of the overall message intended to inspire people to trust in and follow their leader.

Peter Navarro, White House Trade Advisor – 10 Jun 2018

On June 10, 2018, the President’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro, stated the following on Fox News:

“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump.”

His statement was a response after a G7 summit in Canada resulted in an undesirable outcome. An alternate style of leadership may have resulted in a different statement such as “We’re sorry our friends to the north aren’t able to come to agreement with us on trade right now.”

Navarro later apologized for his statement, realizing it was a bit over the top. Yet, the overall tone of leadership and culture he’s immersed in are what originally inspired his comment.

Stephen Miller, White House Policy Advisor, 12 Feb 2017

On February 12, 2017, in an interview with John Dickerson on Face the Nation, Donald Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller said:

“The end result of this is that our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned.”

Here’s the video clip of that statement: