The global obsession with President Donald J. Trump is unparalleled. In part because of changing culture, in part because of changing technology, and in part because of the man himself, never in history has a single individual so dominated our collective consciousness.
For students of leadership this poses particular perils. Given that Leadership Studies and Leadership Development anyway fixate on those at the top, our obsession with Trump seems to confirm this cognitive bias. However, for anyone who takes seriously the subject of leadership – seriously questions how power, authority, and influence actually are exercised – the critical, integral, essential and equal importance of followership has never been as starkly in evidence.
Setting aside policy differences and setting aside chronic violations of individual and institutional norms, Trump and his three oldest children are in any case mendacious, materialistic, and corrupt to the core. How do they get away with it? Because we – enough of us anyway – let them. Their enablers include but are not limited to:
- Most Congressional Republicans.
- Most so-called Conservatives.
- Most past and present members of the current administration.
- Enough members of the media.
- Enough American voters.
- Enough members of Trump’s personal, professional, and political inner circles.
Not all followers – not all enablers – are alike. Some simply stay silent. Others lend modest sustenance. Still others are rabid supporters – lending relentless credence to their cult-like complicity. The point is that Trump does not preside alone. He does so with the sometimes tacit, sometimes explicit support provided by countless others who are indispensable to his capacity to dominate the day.