"My obligation right now is to do well for (1)myself, (2)my family, (3)my employees, (4)for my companies. And that's what I do." ~ Donald Trump, Presidential Debate, 9/26/16. (Emphasis and highlighted numbers are mine)
Leaders create “reality” in a lot of different ways. Primary amongst these is by their use of language. Language is used by individuals to both to communicate ideas and to signal to others what’s important to them at the level of values. A very simple way to consider the relationship between language and reality is that language is a reflector of as well as a creator of reality.
Language is a reflector of reality in so much as it provides a window into the value structure of the individual speaking. The values one aligns with internally are reflected in the outer world in words that are consistently used, habituated behaviors, and in the way priorities are delineated. Language also sends signals to the speaker’s unconscious mind about what fits or doesn't fit with their internal way of organizing information. Information that matches their paradigm of who they are and where they “belong” in the world is allowed in and that which doesn’t match is filtered out and/or assigned a much lower priority of significance or relevance. In this way language is also a creator of reality because the resulting behaviors and priorities one subsequently exhibits are the building blocks used in the creation of their explicitly manifested external reality.
Because of the collaborative nature of leadership, highly effective leaders need to be altruistic to a significant degree. This is particularly true of those that aspire to public office. This means they subjugate the natural human urge to take care of #1 first. Models of this type of leader are Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Churchill, and Lincoln. This is a learned trait and those aligning behind a presumed leader would do well to observe that leaders historical use of language as well as their historical behavior in this light.
Consider the above quote by Donald Trump – which is typical of almost everything he has ever publicly said or represented. At 70 years of age he is extremely unlikely to change this view of his reality – it is a “go to” orientation in which he is well practiced. It is so well practiced that it is habitual and ingrained in who he is. As a consequence, the Republic could well be in danger. Substitute “country” for companies and “citizens” for employees and you will recognize a disturbing personal reality – the welfare of both are relegated to positions behind self and family. Contrast his words with those of Kennedy in 1961 “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” or Franklin Roosevelt saying in 1932 “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” and the difference is as starkly visible as night is from day. He comes first. To expect a different reality would be foolish.
Reflective of his internal reality also is his consistent and aggrandizing self-referencing through the use of the personal pronoun “I”. It is not a stretch in any way to assert that, from his perspective and in his reality, the world revolves around him. Sacrifice, if and when it is required, will be prioritized in reverse order insuring that “myself” is the last to have to give up anything. There is ample evidence in his history to ground this assertion in fact.
When we consider the egalitarian ideals upon which this country was founded the potential for egregious conflicts of interest are manifold were he to become President. We saw this with Richard Nixon in the 1960’s, we saw this with Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister of Italy in the 1990’s and, perhaps most glaringly, we saw this with Hitler in the 1930’s and 40’s. With all of these examples the consequences of their leadership ranged from consequential to catastrophic.
The adroit use of the language of fear and loss as a rallying cry is explicitly designed to tap into the base survival emotions that all of us possess. The problem with using fear and loss as organizing principles is that they are contractive emotions that make it difficult for reason and logic to overcome. We pull back to defend, we exclude and raise barriers that fence us in while we hope to keep imaginary adversaries at bay. From this contractive and defensive position it is difficult if not impossible to move forward; it is difficult if not impossible to collaborate and cooperate effectively; it is difficult if not impossible to be creative, idealistic or generous.
There is a well-known aphorism that states that energy follows attention. Our energy and spirit as a nation is being misdirected and sapped by leaders that aspire to do what is good for them or their party (family) at the expense of the common weal. The increasing lack of civility in our public discourse is not accidental. It reflects how we are being spoken to by those we are allowing to stake out positions of leadership. This acceptance is creating a reality that is at odds with who we aspire to be – as a nation and as individuals. We, all of us, need to demand to be spoken to and about with respect. There is a leadership “law” I’ve coined that states that “people will give you what you settle for.” Reality is ours to create. We can’t afford to settle for less than the ideals we aspire to.