The Policy Geek

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Leadership: How Does Trump Stack Up?

We at The Policy Geek think it's high time we had a discussion about Leadership, what makes a good leader, and what we should be looking for in a POTUS moving forward. To that end, we share with you here a piece written by our good friend Dr. Bear as originally posted on Mad Mike's America...

By Dr. Mark Bear

In my other line of work, I am an organizational consultant and trainer. Often, I am asked the million dollar question as to what constitutes “good leadership,” and I must confess it is not only a fair question, but an important one, too.

Sadly, leadership is often misconstrued as the art of persuading others to do one’s will. Looking at several disastrous examples throughout the course of history, it's rather clear that just because one can convince those around him to do his bidding with undying loyalty doesn't automatically designate that person as being a “good leader." Therefore, being able to motivate blind followers should not be the sole litmus test as to whether one is, or is not, good leader material.

Some examples of poor leadership include Richard Nixon, Jim Jones, Adolph Hitler, and a host of other characters littering the leadership literature, and yet it can very well be argued that these men did in fact, successfully and en masse persuade others to do their bidding.

So what does constitute good leadership, and more importantly, how would our current President, Donald Trump, fare if evaluated with the standard descriptors found in mainstream social psychological literature? More importantly, what are the attributes of good leadership?

Here's what we've found. Positive leadership role models include the following: modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the hearts of those around him or her.

Let’s do a brief review of these factors through the frame of Trump. Exemplary leaders stand for something, believe in something, and care about something. They pursue their vision with determination and elegance. They then can easily be held up as role models for all to follow. Well, we already know that in many ways, from imitating a handicapped person at a rally, to inciting violence, to being caught talking about attempting to assault married women, that this man is no role model.

Good leaders inspire a shared vision. They find their voice by clarifying their personal values, expressing those values in their own unique and authentic style, and drawing like minds close. We need to stop right here if we even care to provide an objective assessment of Trump, because at first glance one might be persuaded to believe that Trump does, in fact, “express his values in his own unique style.” Style he has in spades. However, the good leader – or the person one would want to follow – first finds his or her voice – and it is this voice which serves as the catalyst for the leader’s vision. The problem with Trump here is apparent. He has embraced nearly every single side of every single position politically. By having no firm footing in any particular ideology, other than nationalism, Trump makes it quite difficult for those around him, let alone members of his own party, to follow him.

Moreover, while articulating his stances on the issues, he has behaved in such an unprofessional manner at levels of contempt for civil process which are unprecedented. Despite his missteps, Trump daily accuses everyone around him of being questionable, while evidence consistently and clearly points to he himself as being the problem. Most of his staff has to play clean up throughout each day, continuously needing to explain his new positions and absurd statements, so progress toward any particular goal is often sidelined while his advisers are consumed instead with the business of putting out constant fires.

This is not what experts in my field – including myself – consider good leadership. Trump very well may be able to persuade people at a rally, however translating that speech into political governance is quite another thing, as we all are witnessing with the current GOP “Repeal and Replace ‘Obamacare'” effort.

Eloquent speeches about admirable beliefs – not being part of the “establishment” – aren’t nearly enough. Being an "outsider" does not a productive civil servant make. Words and deeds must be consistent for leaders to have integrity. Leaders wishing to be effective must set the example by aligning their personal actions with shared values. To date, Trump has told his base that he would “drain the swamp,” only to turn around and state at one of his celebration rallies how that statement was now "hokey to him.” And instead of following words with deeds he instead provides evidence to any casual observer that he's filling the swamp instead of draining it by surrounding himself exclusively with so many billionaires in his cabinet positions.

There is no freeway to the future, folks. No paved highway from here to tomorrow. There is only wilderness! Only uncertain terrain. There are no road maps, and no signposts. Pioneering leaders – those that are considered the greatest in our social psychological literature – rely on a compass and a dream. They dream of what “might” be, and they passionately believe they can make a positive difference. But here is where things go awry again with Trump and if we are not careful, we might find ourselves believing him to actually possess this attribute. But does he?

Visions seen only by the leader are insufficient to mobilize and energize. One may argue that Trump was quite able to mobilize, as evidenced by the turnout for the previous election cycle, but Russian interference notwithstanding, this standard still misses the mark. Leaders enlist others by appealing to their shared aspirations. Publicly he's promised jobs, to bring back coal, and that he'd make Mexico pay for a wall. In reality, Trump's aspirations mostly involve tearing families apart, removing health care coverage from millions and millions of people, gutting social safety nets, and destroying the established governmental departments that run our country.

Currently, Trump is reaching out only to those within his base, and is neglecting to appeal to the entire electorate - that is those within the ranks of the Democratic and Independent groups of our electorate. If he is to experience any level of success – long term – he will need to go beyond his mere rhetoric offered on the night of the election, and actually try to meet people in the middle. If he doesn’t, he will be a failed leader.

On the average, the work of leaders is to accomplish change. That's how their success is measured. To them the status quo is unacceptable. Leaders search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, not seek out ways to tear the entire system down. He's not trying to rebuild our system at all, but rather it seems to be his goal to simply destroy it. In fact, Steve Bannon, the very man who has Trump’s ear the most, is on record as stating how he wants to tear down the entire system.

Good leaders seize the initiative to make things happen, realizing they have no monopoly on good ideas, and they constantly scan the environment seeking other people – regardless of party affiliation – to assist in creating ways to do new things. They research all the options. They listen, they learn, they grow. This takes time. It takes measured resolve to make educated choices. It takes input from every direction so every base is covered.

In other words, one cannot get from here to tomorrow in one giant leap. Extraordinary things get done one step at a time. The greatest leaders in our history have experimented and taken risks by constantly generating small wins and by learning from mistakes. And, despite persistent opposition – which is certain to come – and inevitable setbacks (which need to be admitted to versus denying they occur), leaders demonstrate the courage to continue the quest.

Let me be clear here folks: Trump very well may take risks, however those risks seem to be irresponsible and self-defeating. Sending your staff out to argue how the former President spied on you is nothing more than petty, and worse, when most folks realize it to be untrue, you as a leader risk losing all credibility. In fact, already, the world has decided his office holds no veritas, generates no truths that can be relied on. This is not something Trump should be surprised about because he began losing credibility when he entered the race, by seizing on the lie that our former President was not born in the United States, going so far as to tell an interviewer that, and I’m paraphrasing “I have people in Hawaii right now and they are finding things which are not all that good.” Of course, none of that every happened.

Finally, when a leader suffers a setback he or she doesn’t go out of his way to exact retribution upon the dissident. Threatening to “keep a list of those who wronged you,” or worse, calling those who did not support you the “opposition party” or "the enemy," are unproductive ways to bridge the gap. It's a funny way to govern when you actively seek out a constant enemy within, when you begin by fighting against more than half of your electorate, when you call our cherished fourth estate "the enemy of the people."

Leaders also know they cannot do the task alone. It takes partners to get extraordinary things accomplished in organizations and that challenge is even greater in government when having to deal with various factions with specific ideologies. In other words, it takes compromise. So, leaders foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust. They develop teams with spirit and cohesion, being careful not to select each person with the mentality it be essential they all agree with you, for doing so endangers one’s leadership terribly. Unfortunately, in Trump world, there are only yes men and sycophants. And where there is an independent voice to be heard, it is immediately asked to resign.

Trump has violated the public’s ability to trust him, and now he has violated any modicum of trust which may have existed between his most important ally; the current Speaker of the House.

Lest you missed the news, Breitbart – the very online publication where Trump's Bannon comes from – published a story yesterday trying to portray the Speaker in the worst terms because Ryan had told his caucus (the day after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced in our media) that he would "never support Trump.” Now, Trump is using that statement made several months ago against the Speaker, this at a time when Trump NEEDS the Speaker more than ever to get his health care bill passed. But this President has a pension for revenge, and that need overrules common sense or big picture vision.

Good leaders promote positive reciprocity between all players, something Trump is unable to do, as reports of infighting and backstabbing leak daily. As the sands shift under Trump, he really could care less. Despite the obvious fact that good leaders cannot do the task alone, Trump told the entire Nation he “alone was the person who could fix the nation.” Given his lack of research and his shooting from the hip style of command, we're in for a long bumpy ride. Not only does he seem to have trouble getting his team to work together, he actually seems to enjoy watching them fight each other - like this is all one big episode of The Apprentice to him. With the White House playing out Oval Office politics like a story line from The Survivor, who knows who will have his ear even this time next month.

On every winning team, members need to share in the rewards of their efforts. So good leaders celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community. That means expressing pride in the accomplishments of the leader’s team, but when governing in the position Trump holds, it means he acknowledges EVERY person, every citizen’s accomplishment, regardless of their political support or affiliation. It is this obstacle which persists in plaguing Trump as President and prevents him from being effective and good as a leader. If you aren't a Trump supporter, and don't sing his praises, you're out, and a target for his scorn.

So how does Trump stack up? You can make the decision for yourself. However, when doing so perhaps we all should compare Trump to our previous President. Ask yourselves a question: How many of these attributes did our former President possess? Did he serve as a role model? Did he walk the talk? Did he inspire us with a shared vision of HOPE? Did he challenge the process, promote transparency, and generate new ways of incorporating input like creating the petition page on the website? Did he enable others to act, provide roadmaps for change? Did he and our former first lady encourage the hearts of those around him or her?

As I have made clear throughout all of my writing, our former President was not perfect, but at least he had the character essential to bring the country together. At least his style and process was role model worthy. Just because there was a group of people in this nation who decided to believe lies and myths about the former President in no way mitigates his basic leadership style which very well can be argued met the above criteria, and in many cases far exceeded that criteria.

In closing, my personal and professional evaluation of Trump as a leader of the free world, utilizing the objective criteria outlined above, tells me he is more of a slick salesman – able to motivate large groups of people to HIS vision – versus being a “good leader” who embraces a shared vision of ALL citizens in this nation. Leading often requires supporting the populace in accomplishing their goals, not forcing the populace to assist in accomplishing your own goals.

Unless he alters his course radically, something I do not see occurring, I do not remain hopeful. Anyone, anyone at all, if trained to be successful can be a salesman, but it is quite another to be a “good leader.” Being a dictator is easy. Leadership skills take years of incubation coupled with layers of a complex and ever learning character; both criteria which he seems to lack. I hope for our Nation that Donald J. Trump will be the exception to the rule, that bumbling into the office will somehow prove to be a growth opportunity for Donald, but fifty days into his Administration is showing otherwise.

Follow Dr. Bear on Facebook here, and on Twitter.

Source: Kouzes J.M & Posner, (2004). The leadership challenge. Josey Bass, SF, CA.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Republican Liars: ObamaCare Myths Debunked

Hey, if you've been paying attention to the Health Care debate, you may have heard more than one Republican mention that the need for immediate repeal and replacement is imminent - that all insurance companies are in a death spiral from participating in our current system. Well, we at The Policy Geek think that's a bunch of bunk. In an effort to weed through the misinformation, we repost here a piece by our good friend and writer Dr. Bear originally posted on Mad Mike's America. Enjoy!

Occasional Repost

Republicans are fond of discussing how Aetna Insurance Company’s withdrawal from exchanges is evidence that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 is “such a disaster,” or worse, how “Obamacare is in a death spiral.” This supposed “death spiral,” according to the current speaker, is the reason the Republican party is in the process of quickly repealing the law, and now trying to jam through the House and Senate their “replacement.”

Let’s not forget how it was Republicans who complained how the last bill was jammed through without giving the public a chance to review it, despite it taking over eighteen months to debate. However, what Republicans – like Speaker Ryan – tend to neglect telling the American people is precisely “why” Aetna withdrew from the exchanges, and understanding the why is just as tantamount to understanding the motivations behind the Republican party’s persistent failure to disclose the reason.

Interestingly, Aetna Insurance’s CEO is repeating the exact same story, that is, “ObamaCare is in a death spiral.” According to Bertolini who made his remarks back in February at the Wall Street Journal’s the Future of Health Care event, the insurance company’s Chief Executive believes the risk pool is deteriorating, the funding mechanism is awash, and the 'premium model' are all reasons for the supposed failure. However, according to PolitiFact, the Affordable Care Act is not in any “death spiral,” and they have rated both Ryan’s claim – and one can extrapolate also Bertolini’s statement - as false.

In fact, PolitiFact Wisconsin goes out of their way to explain precisely why this is not the case; more people have gained coverage under the law, fewer people in this nation are uninsured with a mere – but significant amount – 8.9% of Americans still not having insurance. The fact-checking organization proceeds to explain exactly how this has been accomplished. Key to those factors are the ability of children to remain on their parent’s insurance plan until they reach the age of twenty-six, and insurance companies are now mandated to no longer discriminate against those who have pre-existing conditions. It is noteworthy to point out that PolitiFact also admits that the law has not been popular and that several promises have not come to fruition. Instead of the elimination of deductibles, in some cases there has been an increase in deductibles, and so that part of the ACA missive was rated previously as a “broken promise.”

What the fact-checking organization did not provide however, is what reasons exist for those deductibles to be increasing versus decreasing as was the original plan. Was this problem really due to the individual mandate which just so happens to be the least popular part of the law? First of all, under ACA as it stands now the insurance companies are allowed to charge three times (the maximum amount allowed) of what they would originally charge as a means of mitigating for what they perceived as a pitfall - the losses incurred by insuring more sick people - despite the fact that before the ACA many healthy individuals were not signing up for coverage. Well, apparently, if you tell an insurance company that they are able to charge three times the amount of their original costs – and do so under the auspices of allowing them to do so after they get a better look at their risk pool – one can nearly be assured the insurance companies – out of greed – will take advantage of the established maximum allowed by law. And before one blames the former President for this aspect of the law, one need remember that prior to the implementation of the law, insurance companies had no cap whatsoever, that is, they could charge whatever it was they wished, all under the auspices of capitalism and free trade.

Yes, the ACA as it stands now is far from perfect, but at least it has several benefits to it while remaining a starting point which legislators can actually build upon. Did you know the currently proposed plan by the Republican Party would allow insurance companies to charge up to five times the amount they would have normally charged - all under the auspices of getting a glance at their risk pool - legally allowing them to sharply increase their rates, supposedly in accordance to the perceived changes in risk? However, how many of you believe the CEOs of these insurance companies are not taking advantage of consistently charging the maximum amount allowed by law?

In addition, the fact-checking organization Politifact doesn't seem to take into account how many people are simply against the word 'mandate' – originally a Republican idea promoted by the conservative think-tank “Heritage Foundation” – and so are refusing to purchase into the ACA, readily accepting the penalty for not doing so. Some corporations are doing so out of a supposed “religious conviction,” like Hobby Lobby, due to the law's provision allowing women to purchase contraceptives with their insurance coverage, while others accept the penalty over getting insured due to their faulty notion that should they participate they would be violating their “moral conscience.” Never mind that these same folks have no issue whatsoever paying for taxes which support their public schools, or annually purchasing automotive coverage in accordance with their State, because in their minds this is socialism par excellence. Make no mistake that these same folks have no issue whatsoever with Medicare, Social Security, and other programs which benefit THEM, but this is just Obamacare mandate is a bridge too far.

Any person following politics closely realizes this has been the Republican strategy since the Tea Party took over in 2010, disassemble as many government programs as possible, and honestly one can make an argument that it has been a staple for many years now. After all, who can ever forget Ronald Reagan’s blatant lie about the “Welfare Queen?” It does seem that Republicans have become more fond of this strategy in recent years due to their stepping up their efforts, doubling down on their projects to defund one successful and popular safety net institution after another. Remember the allegation and accompanying sound bite played across conservative media purporting that the former President told business owners that “they didn’t build their business?” Or, how about the oft repeated charge that when former Secretary of State Clinton testified to the investigatory committee on Benghazi that she said, “What difference does it make?” In every one of these examples, the entire story was not shared with the viewing or listening audience, providing a mere sound bite that satisfied the ideological preference of conservatives. But democracy cannot function properly when the very people who send people to Washington do not have accurate information, can they? Which leads us right back to Aetna’s and Paul Ryan’s claim that “Obamacare is in a death spiral,” because this is not the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say.

So what is the rest of this story? To know that, you first have to know the part were Aetna's CEO shared how Humana Insurance Company and Aetna had a proposed merger. The problem was the Justice Department back in 2016 was filing suit against Aetna because according to Reuters, the merger would have been a violation of our antitrust laws. Interestingly, Humana was not the only insurer that Aetna had its eyes on, as there was also an attempt by Aetna to merge with Cigna. According to the federal government – rightfully – these mergers would have restricted competition in the marketplace, so the proposed mergers necessarily were being reviewed. 

So how did Aetna respond to the looming lawsuit? Simply put, they threatened the federal government by telling them they would pull out of the exchanges they were participating in - and those they had planned to expand into - if the federal government did not drop the lawsuit. And then when they proposed deals were shut down, they screamed "death spiral." However, this is not what the corporation has been telling Americans now, is it? No! They said the reason they were pulling out was due to the hardship and loss of business and cost issues, hardly true, and when one looks at the matter objectively, one readily sees that Aetna tried to “extort” the federal government. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, a United States District Judge ruled in open court that, “Aetna tried to leverage its participation in the exchanges for favorable treatment from the Department of Justice regarding the proposed merger.” So it is a matter of public record what Aetna's real motive for pulling out of the exchanges really was....revenge.

THIS is why Paul Ryan, Aetna’s CEO, conservative lawmakers, and the conservative media entertainment complex should NOT be telling Americans that Aetna is an example of how “Obamacare is in a death spiral.” It simply is not true, and it misleads the American people which  - while it fits their ideological narrative - does NOT fit the facts. We thought you should you know The Rest of The Story.

Trump, while running for office, stated how he would be certain to provide insurance to everyone, how important it was that no one be left behind, that it was the least we could do, and now the Republican party has crafted legislation which already is predicted to leave the poorest and the oldest of us behind with no insurance, all the while providing CEOs and the wealthiest a mighty tax break. In fact, under Ryan's Trumpcare plan, if you let your insurance lapse for more than two months, you'll be subject to a 30% spike on your insurance premiums payable directly to your insurance company. Older people, the poor, and the sick alike will pay dearly should this bill become law, and again, the Affordable Care Act is far from being in a death spiral. But don’t tell that to the Republican Party! They're on a mission.

You can follow our pal Mark Bear on Facebook or Twitter @DrProgressive

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Support The Bridge Act

"As we get closer to the day that Donald Trump actually becomes the President of the United States, the urgency of our movement grows exponentially. We will not be silent, we will not be silenced and we will unite to oppose any and all policies that hurt the American people. Our duty is to protect the heart of this nation, and be more prepared for the first day of his administration than he is." 
~ Our friend Michael Skolnik

Under Democratic President Barack Obama, many undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children were given protections under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). 

DACA provides a path to legal work and deferred action on deportation. It's intelligently done and worth supporting. Now, with a Trump presidency looming, DACA is in danger, as are the Dreamers who have benefited from it. 

In case you are not aware of who DACA protected, here's the basics,

If you arrived in the United States before age 16
If you were born on or after June 15, 1981
If you have lived in the United States since 2007

if you can prove you are either in school
have a high school diploma or GED
have served in the US Military

Then you might be eligible to apply for a
work permit
student loans
a driver's license
a social security number

That's it. It doesn't make you a citizen, it just makes you legal to be here, it makes you a "documented" resident for a limited amount of time, 2 years, during which time you may try to apply for citizenship. No promises.

Trump has said he'll deport all undocumented immigrants, and his intended Attorney General has stated opposition to even legal immigration. If you want to know more about that you can read more here:

Project 1461

On Friday, December 9th, another smart move was made. The BRIDGE Act was introduced in the United States Senate by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which provides a clean, legislative solution for 750,000 Dreamers who earned work permits and temporary relief from deportation.

Whether you are emotionally effected by the outcome of the election, or just a patriotic citizen surprised by the moves already made by the presumptive President-Elect, it would be totally worth your time to call your Senator and voice your support of this work.


Please call your United States Senator. "Well, I don't even know who that is," you say. "And I don't know how to get a phone number of a person I don't even know," you say. Well, no worries, we got you:

You can find out who your representative is and how to contact them here:

and tell them that you support the BRIDGE Act.


Go ahead, you can do it now, we'll wait...(make sure you call your Senator's local office and their office in D.C.)

So, now that that's done, it felt great, right? You weighed in, good for you. What's next? 

You could also send a letter, a paper letter, showing your support. That's a bigger ask, but maybe you're so darn mad you'll be happy we even suggested it. 

Until next time, the struggle continues....

The Policy Geek