OPINION | Open Letter On Leadership To Donald Trump

For Trump, Democrats try to make things worse 0:42

Editor’s Note: Wesley K. Clark is a retired Army general and former NATO supreme ally commander in Europe, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, and a CNN military analyst. The opinions expressed in this comment are yours. See more opinion at CNNE.com/opinion.

(WAB NEWS) – Dear Mr. President,


This Wednesday (May 6), your administration discussed reducing the coronavirus task force, and now you say it will continue indefinitely. Will you be at meetings and briefings? Or will it speak separately and undermine or contradict its experts?

Many of my military colleagues have tried to help, and everyone understands that you do not accept criticism, and even suggestions are poorly received. But the United States needs real leadership now, and others around the world are watching us, too. So as someone who has spent most of your life leading, studying, or teaching leadership, can I respectfully offer some helpful observations? And can I speak frankly? This could be your last chance to get things right.

First point, leaders have to inspire confidence. It does not automatically come with the office. You have to get it for its performance. The public must see and believe that their public duties come first, before any other interest: business, friends, or even family. And in the case of this medical emergency, before your reelection, too! When you’re on the lookout for polls and protests, you’re undermining the public’s trust and faith in your leadership.

Another thing about trust: be careful what you say. Any statement that is later proven to be false will damage your reputation. Don’t let observations and possibilities slip, we know you were just thinking aloud about bleach and disinfectants, but every statement you make will be judged. That is the burden of leadership. You can’t be changing what you say, and honestly, you would be the first to point that out to an opponent. You cannot lead without the trust of the people.

Second, leaders must have a strategy and plan to position themselves. You are absolutely right to recognize that ultimately we have to be able to reopen the economy. And it gave us a pretty good strategy to reopen the country while we wait for the vaccine, but it appears to be undermining its own strategy by encouraging protesters to push for an earlier opening. Why sabotage your own strategy? Unless you’re doing it to have good “numbers” for your reelection. Of course, this goes back to the issue of trust.

Mr. President, if you successfully deal with the covid-19 crisis, you will likely be reelected. Conversely, if he prematurely pushes openness in the economy, and the United States teeters toward repetitive spikes in the virus, he is unlikely to be reelected. So first things first.

Third, leaders accept their responsibilities. You are the highest-ranking elected official in the country: The entire executive branch works for you, and whatever they do or say is ultimately your responsibility. No one expects it to be perfect, but as the famous sign on Harry Truman’s desk points out: “the responsibility is yours.” Admit some mistakes or acknowledge that your views or projections have changed and explain why. If you sidestep responsibilities now, you won’t be able to claim credit when we win this fight. And by the way, stop blaming your predecessors, that makes you look small and you sure don’t want that.

Fourth, high-level leaders are not expected to know everything, but they are expected to bring in the right experts and take advantage of their knowledge. Its experts constantly dodge and rework its public statements. It is obvious that it has them on the verge of intimidation and fear. He has all the power, he doesn’t need to lead like that. When they give you inaccurate information or refuted projections, replace them and hold them accountable. But otherwise, put them out front to discuss the technicalities, and don’t crash, correct, or step ahead of them in public.

Fifth, in troubled times, leaders show empathy. America’s losses are already shocking in personal terms, and many of these losses are among its supporters among the working class. These people have families, loved ones, friends and colleagues who expect their empathy, and if they feel that these losses are nothing more than a “number standing in the way of their reelection,” they will hold them personally responsible. Show empathy every day, visit families, talk to the doctors and nurses on the front line – comfort, comfort, comfort – that’s what leadership demands.

Sixth, good leaders bring their teams together. To some extent, it has created a new political model for a USA. modern, based on overfeeding its base, at the expense of others in the electorate, as well as on the delivery of “goods” in terms of judges, deregulation and tax cuts. It worked well enough for him to be chosen and for the money to go into his election campaign. But in this crisis, as we say where I come from: “that dog will not hunt”, that is, that excuse will not work. Now he has to lead a country, not win an election, and he knows it. The United States, each one of us, is its “team”, whether it is to maintain social distance, promote innovative solutions or help to work the logistics of meat packaging or supply face masks, regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

Please don’t look for more enemies, because the only thing it does is harm us all. While the federal government correctly trusts states for an assessment and response to local conditions, this is your opportunity to go beyond partisanship and unite the country. Stop the bland competition with those Democratic governors, totally weakening you and your administration. It could be much more effective if you incorporated them into your team and built mutual respect.

Seventh, good leaders fulfill their role by setting an example. So if you want people to wear face masks, wear one. Honeywell’s visit on Tuesday was good, but it detracted from not publicly wearing a face mask. And, of course, the press took advantage, because they believe that he is one of those “do what I say, not what I do” leaders, and that brings us to the issue of trust again.

Eighth, good leaders retain their integrity, at least in public. They don’t let their fears, resentments, or anger show through: it’s about control. In private, for sure, they get angry, heal the wounds on their pride and try to learn from each event and comment to move on. As we used to say in the Army, “don’t wear your heart up your sleeve,” where he constantly hurts himself and hits himself. So please stop responding to every offensive comment, that may work to gain Twitter followers, for entertainment, but it is not an effective way to lead.

So, Mr. President, I know this advice sounds harsh and painful, but you are a cunning strategist, a fact that your opponents often don’t understand. He is also a capable negotiator, as recently demonstrated by making a deal for the cut of 10 million barrels per day in oil production. And it is strong and resilient. Those are all good qualities. But you cannot be an effective leader without relentless and painful self-examination. Take it or leave it, after due consideration.

My goal in writing this is to help you, because today the United States, and indeed the whole world, needs leadership, and while some may not like it, you are the man. We ALL need it in its best possible version!

To be honest,

Wesley Clark



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