How To Lead Donald Trump: Part 1, Understanding Promoter Distress
Everyone is trying to figure out President Trump. A group of Psychologists even has gone public with its diagnosis.
My assessment is that Trump is not mentally ill, not even crazy. He is in distress. He’s been in distress for quite some time, probably on and off for his whole life, and more often than not since he started campaigning for president. And it seems to be getting worse. This has been cause for concern from many of his supporters. Increasingly, those working closely with him are struggling to find positive ways to contain his behavior and help him lead effectively.
Regardless of where you stand politically, it’s critical that we find healthy ways to positively motivate our President. We need strong, positive leadership in an increasingly chaotic and polarized world.
Many people think Trump is unpredictable and chaotic. Nothing could be further from the truth…if you know what to look for.
Over 40 years ago a psychologist named Taibi Kahler discovered a pattern by which humans interacted in healthy (communication) and unhealthy (miscommunication) ways. In 1977 he was awarded the Eric Berne Memorial Scientific Award in the field of Transactional Analysis for his discovery of the Miniscript, a predictable, sequential and observable pattern of negative behavior exhibited when a person descends into deeper and deeper self-sabotaging distress.
Kahler discovered six distinct Miniscript patterns and correlated these with six distinct personality types within each of us. We all have one type that’s primary and, the other five are arranged in order of preference and strength to form a personality “condominium.” From what I’ve seen, the Promoter personality type and Miniscript is most evident in Donald Trump.
Here’s what Kahler discovered about Promoters, and why Trump is so predictable.
Promoters thrive on incidence, defined as a lot of excitement in a short period of time. They love the thrill of the chase, making deals, taking risks, and being a hero. When Promoters are not in distress, they exhibit the following characteristics:
- Adaptable, charming and persuasive
- Love to negotiate and compete
- Motivated by lots of action, risk, and excitement
- Highly resourceful and entrepreneurial
Promoters, even when healthy, have these potential liabilities:
- Lack of empathy
- Self-focused and self-centered
- Like to hoard the limelight
- Ready. Fire. Aim.
Distressed Promoters: Three Degrees of Distress
Kahler identified three degrees of distress that are exhibited when people don’t get their needs met positively. These distinct levels of distress are predictable, sequential, and observable. Distress may look chaotic and pathological, and it certainly can become a problem for people. But just because someone is in distress doesn’t mean they are crazy. Here’s the sequence for Promoters.
- Withdraws support, leaves people to fend for themselves
- Tells people what to feel or think, e.g. “You know it’s true,” “You’ll love this,” or “You’ll get tired of winning.”
- Goes it alone, is not a team player
- Manipulates and creates negative drama
- Breaks the rules, or acts as if the rules don’t apply
- Blames bad outcomes on others, takes all the credit for good outcomes
- Creates diversions to avoid accountability
- Attacks anyone who holds up a mirror or magnifying glass to their behavior
- Develops extreme tunnel-vision and can appear delusional
- Keeps escalating, even though tactics are not working
- Pre-emptively abandons the team, family, or community to avoid being rejected; “I’m breaking up with you before you can break up with me.”
- Feels hopeless and desperate
My view is that Trump spent his presidential campaign toggling between first and second-degree distress. As president, the first 100 days saw him mostly in second-degree distress, trying to get incidence negatively instead of positively. Recently, I’ve seen him dip into third degree distress momentarily. His behavior has been more self-destructive, seems more desperate, and is alienating more and more critical allies around the world and within his own government.
I feel sad and worried because I believe Trump’s positive traits have leadership potential, but we aren’t seeing them very much. His response to Hurricane Harvey and recent deal-making with Democrats do show some indications of his positive Promoter traits.
What Can We Expect Next?
Third degree rarely ends well. If something doesn’t change, Trump will flame out, but do it on his own terms. Rather than asking for help, I predict he will continue to turn more people against him until he has no support. Then he can resign and turn the tables by blaming his own party and closest allies for obstructing his plans.
Tune in to my next post where I share tips on how to lead Trump (and other Promoters in your life) towards being a more effective leader. Just because they can’t figure it out doesn’t mean you can’t do something to help.
Can’t get enough? Beats & Geeks podcast interviewed me about Trump. Tune in from 14:50 – 34:37.
Copyright Next Element Consulting, LLC 2017
Kahler took all of his discoveries and created the Process Communication Model® of behavioral
communication (PCM). Would you like to learn about your personality structure? Want skills to recognize and all six Miniscript sequences. How about a whole toolbox full of communication tools to connect, motivate, and resolve conflict with all personalities? Start by attending a PCM seminar.