3 Steps to check Trumpian behaviour on your board

One of President Turmp’s enduring legacies will be his contribution of an new adjective to the modern dictionary:

Trumpian is an adjective form for President Donald Trump. The term is especially used by critics to characterize his language, conduct, and policies.


The word will endure because no one needs to work hard to figure our what it means.

His language is coarse and bullying.

His conduct, defined as behaviour over time, is bullying.

His policies, save those that are mainstream Republican, are bullying and racist.

President Donald Trump is, based on the evidence available, a narcissistic bully.

While he may appear an extreme example of that personality type. He isn’t. It’s an illusion afforded by the unique and awesome power of his office.

For, this very morning, just a few days after the Trump regime was toppled, Trump-like CEOs, CXOs and NEDs in organisations all over the world are preparing today to make the lives of those around them miserable, their organisations wholly dependent on their whims and success by any measure short-term, at best.

We all know these narcissistic bullies by name. We can cite their unacceptable behaviour by rote behind closed doors, in pubs and at dinner parties.

But we are all experts in Trumpian behaviour because few of us reach the boardroom, or near it, without experiencing it and/or doling it out.

We are all narcissists. We each sit somewhere on its behavioural scale:

• Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
• Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
• React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
• Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
• Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
• Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
• Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation


I’ll put my hand up to some of these, at times. Will you? If not, you may well be part of the problem and not the solution.

Three steps

Step 1

The first step to check Trumpian behaviour on your board is to embrace emotional intelligence (EQ/EI) as core to your board’s behavioural strategy. This is simply a matter of passing a resolution to do so.

No director should be forgiven for not knowing the core principles of EQ. These are set out in management books, articles and podcasts in one form or another and have been for years. No excuse.

Step 2

The second step is to focus on the three EQ principles most likely, in my view, to lead to behaviour change: develop empathy and self awareness and find a way to negotiate your needs productively.

It’s the latter principle which trips up Trumpian narcissists. They do not believe that they can have their needs met without bullying behaviour.

The experts tell us that the etymology lies in their formative years, frequently brutal.

Mr Trump, and indeed his emotional bedfellow Mr Johnson, had sadly brutal formative years. Recovery from these is available through psychotherapy.

But recovery from formative years’ trauma must be sought out by the sufferer driven by their unhappiness.

Few doubt that Mr Trump and Mr Johnson are unhappy – both appear not to enjoy their day-jobs. But while it’s unlikely they will seek help it is highly likely for those struggling readers of this piece to find more fulfilling outcomes through psychotherapy. I have.

Step 3

The third step is to ensure that your board complies with the behavioural principles and provisions in whatever corporate governance code you use – FRC, QCA or Wates.

Each of these frameworks offers an existing bulwark against Trumpian behaviour on your board. All you have to do is to use it.

Finally, even President Elect Biden expressed himself surprised at the outpouring of joy on the streets of the USA after his election.

He shouldn’t be. We all know the feeling: it’s when the teacher came back into the room and some child was saved from a beating or taunting by the class thug; it’s when that hubristic priest/bishop/cardinal/ is called to book for crimes, or facilitating crimes, unspeakable; it’s when that boss who feeds on your abject humiliation trips up and is fired.

Noteworthy that Mr Biden’s first act was to publish on his transition website an ethical framework.

Let’s hope he sticks to it.

More than that, let’s hold him to it but also help him do so. He too is fallible.

But none of us have to endure Trumpian thuggery.

We won’t.

They can count on it.


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