Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

There are two physicians on my street that have Trump signs in their yards. I have been thinking a lot lately about how that could have happened?

Is it because they have never actually worked directly with frontline health care professionals?

Is it because they really do not want people to have affordable health insurance? Or Medicare? Or social security?

Is it because they are wealthy enough see the stock market as the primary driver of their personal worth?

Or are they connected financially with healthcare organizations that benefit from Trump’s tax breaks?

Or is it because they really think that recent tax breaks have actually helped working people?

Or is it because their patients are all at their same income level?

These are smart people. Do they simply not see the damage that has been done? In education? In infrastructure? In foreign affairs? In human rights? In climate change? In the loss of jobs?

The sad news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing came to me as I was writing this. Her career should be a lesson for us now. She was bigger than politics. She was a cultural icon for democracy and individual freedom. This election is not about making a political choice. It’s about solving a very serious national problem. Save the sorting out of political party ideology for next time.

For this election… do you want to reelect an “only I can do it,” authoritarian dictator? Or do you want to save American democracy?

Read Full Post »

I have written about the impact of media revolutions at many times and in many different ways. Every day it becomes more and more clear how they go on disrupting so many lives.

Here is still another way of explaining the situation:  

When information implodes all around you every day, and you have a special interest or an angry complaint, it is now easier than ever to find people who agree with you. You can always find them somewhere on social media, and that discovery will very likely reshape your universe. That’s the good news, but…

If you are inclined to favor conspiracies finding so many others with the same inclination may surprise you. Your alternate universe will accommodate your underlying fantasy life.

Your universe also offers an illusion of personal safety. So you can go ahead and exercise that mean streak that has been lurking just below the surface of your personality. But eventually could become an angry person.

That mean streak can quickly become an attack weapon. Using Twitter and other social media platforms, individuals, organizations, and governments are able to attack each other spreading fear.

Many young people are able to create their own digital universe from their bedrooms. Some get so hooked that they lose interest in communicating face-to-face. Bullying originates in these lonely bedrooms.

Easy online relationships sometimes result in dangerous liaisons. Social media produces artificial feelings of safety.

Consumers today usually find and stay with news sources they agree with… avoiding other mind-stretching ideas.

Media revolutions change journalism. Digital technology enables news sources of all types and biases. Commercial TV success produces celebrity reporters, faster stories, shorter interviews, and endless ads.

Extremists in both parties are politicizing and polarizing voting districts. When they go to Washington they remain polarized and controlled by those who fund them.

Also, computers today are able to repeat the same messages over and over automatically (often called bots)… confusing entire societies about important political and social issues.

In short, media revolutions produce daily information implosions which end up dividing the public on important issues. They create a strange social media world that changes people’s beliefs, and behaviors both in our homes and governments.

Therefore, the news media simply must stop reporting wild tweets and false statement as daily news. Media revolutions have changed journalism. And it is already past time for this profession to call out lies and false statements no matter who makes them. Our democracy and world peace depend on it.    

Read Full Post »

Whether you are conservative or liberal no longer matters. Our American democracy is literally at stake!!

Listen carefully to the president’s words. He divides us. He uses cruelty and anger, and it usually inspires more hatred and violence. His ultimate goal is to replace America’s democracy with his unqualified cabinet and family-run monarchy… with him as the sole monarch.

Opponents to this–whether liberal, conservative, or independent–must quickly go on the offensive:

  1. Biden and other leaders of the opposition must articulate a powerful vision for America’s future, and a specific plan for how that will happen.
  2. Biden’s running mate and other supporters must very aggressively counter all cruel attacks, fear-mongering, anti-immigration comments, and white nationalist statements.
  3. Anti-Trump Republicans (some calling themselves the Lincoln Project), concerned independents, and young people wanting to unite the country, must speak out against fear-mongering rhetoric wherever it occurs.
  4. Also, journalists and patriots everywhere must learn how to recognize fake news, whether its origin is foreign or domestic, and take the lead in explaining and countering it.

Multiple bank loans and financing, foreign money laundering, repeated bankruptcies, criminal relationships, and personal greed, are all reasons why monarchs and dictatorships eventually fail. But sometimes entire societies and civilizations fall before that can happen. 







Read Full Post »

It wasn’t surprising to hear that the Trump Show this week is being produced by the former producer of Trump’s reality show, the Apprentice!

What ever happened to the Grand Old Party? The party of Lincoln? What a sad situation. This “conference” is simply a four-day immersion in confusing word-salad. And every supporter is reflecting the same Trump cult-inspired narrative.

Now, saving our “democracy” will fall to the Democrats… if only they will get their act together. We need to hear much more about their plans for the future, and what roles their former presidential candidates will play.

Our society has been torn apart by the social media revolution. So we must get our act together too.

  1. For the most part politics has become a series of reality show campaign rallies.
  2. Constant rants have resulted in a deluge of fake news.
  3. The news media can’t resist reporting (and thus legitimizing) daily senseless blasts.
  4. Fear-mongering has divided us, and often even inspired violence.
  5. The Web has become a weapon.
  6. Cruel attacks are now too tolerated.
  7. Lies have become commonplace, and for many they have begun to sound true.
  8. Opposing everything without providing serious solutions has become far too acceptable (Obamacare, climate change, immigration, etc.)
  9. And some got totally hooked into a cult, conspiracies, and dangerous wishful thinking.
  10. And too many have replaced personal disappointments with a blind loyalty to a demagogue.

Whether you are a conservative or liberal no longer matters… this time our American “democracy” is literally at stake!!

Read Full Post »

How can a new government organize to communicate a new America? Here is a bold way to consider. 

President Eisenhower established the United States Information Agency (USIA) during his administration. For 46 years, the United States had a rock-solid marketing and public relations organization within the government. But it was eventually eliminated as a part of a budget-cutting move.

The USIA was separate from the Department of State and other intelligence-gathering government agencies in order to communicate the “the idea of America” without partisan policy influence. It established libraries containing American books and other literary materials in major cities around the world. It distributed films, sponsored musicians and artists, provided scholars and expert speakers, and set up student exchanges. It also created the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Fee Europe, both of which quickly became the worldwide trusted voice of unbiased news.

After the USIA was eliminated, many of its activities were moved inside the Department of State. But here it was quickly understaffed and underfunded, and the U.S. lost the most effective communication operation this country ever had. Former Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, in his recent book Exercise of Power, complains that the U.S. still fails to invest enough in strategic communication.

So I suggest that the next White House administration build an updated version of the USIA, adding a domestic component to its former international operation… using, of course, the most up-to-date of marketing and communication technology, strategies, and tactics.

A new and expanded USIA would be a really bold way to announce that America is back… developing brand messaging that is energizing and forward looking; working with citizen groups to solve racism and policing problems; dealing with America’s shortcomings credibly and candidly; reporting good and bad news objectively around the world; showing off our talented artists, scholars and experts; and making the case for an exciting new breed of American global leadership.




Read Full Post »

It’s clear that Democrats will have to prove that the current president is incompetent. They got a great start on that last night. Michelle made that case, and Bernie made the best speech of his life.

But the campaign must also beware of too much drab. Looking too drab and sounding so has it’s limitations when developing a complete strategic communication initiative. And establishing the right tone can be a really tricky proposition.

In this election, Americans must also clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. They must hear about a bold new vision for the future… and plans for how a new White House can be organized to make that a reality.

Admittedly, it’s a big communication challenge to accomplish both... make the gloom story clear, and at the same time show what the wonderful new day ahead will look like.

Maybe much of this will be accomplished by end of the week? 

Read Full Post »

The founding fathers had disagreements on just how powerful a president should be. The American revolution made it clear that a dictatorship was out of the question, but just how much power a president should have remained a bit unclear.

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Leadership for Turbulent times, analyzes the leadership styles of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson… four presidents who were uniquely suited to powerfully address the big issues of their turbulent times.

What to look for in a powerful leader:

  1. A special intellectual strength specifically suited to solving the problems of the times.
  2. An ability to find and lead projects intended to unify the nation, states, and institutions. 
  3. A longstanding commitment to public service with no intent to use the office to gain personal wealth.
  4. A track record of surrounding oneself with a team of proven experts.
  5. An ability to admit failures, apologize, and recover from them by changing course.
  6. And no history of unresolved scandalous foreign relationships, and personal behavior. 

Here’s the problem…

  1. The Electoral College was supposed to insure that competent people would prevent ill-prepared people from getting elected. Obviously, there was no way to anticipate today’s internet and social media. 
  2. The balance of power concept was never intended to allow a would-be authoritarian to refuse to cooperate with the legislature’s constitutionally defined role. 
  3. Strong leadership is usually required to solve big problems and move institutions and nations forward, but that leadership must be largely situational. “Take charge” leaders are always needed in times of crises. 

The problem in America is not whether or not the constitution supports a strong presidency. The problem is what to do when both the Electoral College and impeachment failed, and the elected president is simply not qualified to lead the nation through today’s urgent crises.  


Read Full Post »

Public relations and advertising firms are using social media marketing tools to help politicians win in an information-cluttered and confusing world.  

The Brexit campaign in the UK was able to make it look like huge numbers of Brits wanted to leave the EU. The Trump 2016 campaign used the same tactics to win the election in the US.  And further, the Russians, Chinese, Iranians and others around the world are doing the same thing now. Politics will never be the same.

Here is how it’s done:

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tik Tok, Reddit and other social media platforms collect private information. This personal data identifies small pockets of forgotten and frustrated people, as well as intellectuals and wealthy people who feel they have fallen behind and deserve a better place in the world. Messages are customized for them on topics designed to stir their anger and reinforce their dissatisfaction. Advertising is also targeted directly to them using the same social media platforms. And while they are receiving personally customized messages, they are also becoming predisposed to accept an authoritarian’s solution to their discontent.

All this happens on social media platforms which the general public never sees. The public knows the issues because the news media have covered official statements and political events. But many end up surprised after votes are counted. They just can’t figure out how extreme ideas, or a would-be authoritarian, could win. Social media is how.

Unlike the dictators he so admires, our president has a lack of knowledge of his country’s history, a misunderstanding of recent world events, a serious dearth of modern management skills, a lack of planning for a second term, an inability to call upon empathy, an overwhelming concern for only himself, and virtually no ethical compass. A second term for him… would be a total nightmare for us.    


Read Full Post »

Dictatorships happen across the world when small and isolated groups of people feel ignored by their government. This includes people in forgotten cities and neighborhoods, those stuck in hidden poverty, many minority groups, and even some disgruntled highly educated people.

Authoritarians play to these groups first by causing social divisions and chaos… and then by presenting themselves as the “one person” who can fix things.  

It’s true that democracies don’t reward every competent person. There are winners and losers. Even so it is really surprising to see just how many “successful appearing” people reach the point where they are willing to offer their complete loyalty to an authoritarian in exchange for an impressive title and imagined prestige.

It’s important for them (and us) to realize that authoritarians never want to keep experts too close. They are too threatening. Authoritarians only want loyalty… which they demand, but rarely offer in return.   

You can be sure that America’s founders rejected authoritarian rule. But they also feared that democracy might not guarantee a stable government. So they designed our “electoral college” so wiser individuals would be able to prevent unqualified people from winning national elections. Of course, the founders had no way of knowing that many years later a digital media revolution would produce the kind of chaos and confusion that would completely change the game.

Today’s digital media can either unite… or divide and energize hostilities. Thus, they provide perfect tools for autocrats. And once authoritarians experience even a little power, they generally will not peacefully give it up!  

Multi-talented historian and journalist Anne Applebaum describes the worldwide consequences of all this in her new book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. Anne was born in America, lived and wrote for a while in England, and now lives in Poland. Her book is must reading for all who worry about the loss of democracy.

Read Full Post »

Make good trouble” was John Lewis’s simple advice to his followers. In addition to all of his incredible civil rights accomplishments, Lewis was instinctively a natural communicator:

  1. He established national, and eventually international, prominence by coining simpleauthentic, and quotable phrases. 
  2. He constantly interacted personally and through media with his followers… which no doubt caused them to feel they helped shape his story.
  3. Therefore, his followers were always happy to help spread his simple messages. Even in this confusing information-saturated world, word-of-mouth remains the most powerful of all communication tools.
  4. Television news coverage of the violence that was perpetrated on Lewis’s nonviolent marchers insured an emotional impact with a very large audience. But it also insured that this TV footage would also become part of the archive of American history.
  5. Yes, John Lewis would become one of the most effective civil rights advocates the world has ever seen… and he would accomplish it partly because he was also a master communicator.

I spent an entire career communicating institutions, and then teaching and writing about what I learned: The most important lesson about leadership communication was that it must never be about “spinning,” or exaggerated promises. Just as John Lewis did, messaging should always be about finding what is truly authentic about the moment, and then finding the best simple way to express it. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »