Issues

Trump, the 'change the world' personality

People of this type lead during cataclysmic change.

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At President Obama's recent press conference, he was, not surprisingly, peppered with questions regarding president-elect Donald Trump.

The president observed of Trump, astutely, that "his gifts that obviously allowed him to execute one of the biggest upsets in political history, those are ones that hopefully he will put to good use on behalf of all the American people."

The unusualness of this election leaves a lot of questions hanging about what to expect going forward.

Specifically, we had two candidates who, according to Gallup, had the highest negative ratings in history for presidential candidates — Trump had 61 percent and Hillary Clinton had 52 percent.

And, according to Gallup polling just prior to the election, only 32 percent agreed that Trump "has personality and leadership qualities a president should have."

So what exactly are the "gifts" that enabled president-elect Trump to "execute one of the biggest upsets in political history," and how can they be harnessed in leading the nation now that he has been elected?

Some sense of what is going on might be gained from psychoanalyst and management consultant Michael Maccoby, who wrote a book called "The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Peril of Visionary Leadership."

Maccoby identifies the "change the world personality," which he calls the "productive narcissist."

This personality, according to Maccoby, is someone who: "(1) doesn't listen to anyone else when he believes in doing something and (2) has a precise vision of how things should be. ... It is a combination of a rejection of the status quo, along with a compelling vision, that defines the narcissist.

"A proper understanding of the narcissistic personality," writes Maccoby, "shows that throughout history, we have looked to people of this type to lead during cataclysmic change."

Political and business leaders that Maccoby categorizes as "productive narcissists" include Abraham Lincoln, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, and media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.

Trump referenced Maccoby's book in his book "Think Like a Billionaire," saying that it "makes a convincing argument that narcissism can be a useful quality if you are trying to start a business. A narcissist does not hear naysayers."

But along with the powerful leadership qualities, Maccoby describes the negative characteristics that this personality carries: "They are oversensitive to criticism, don't listen to anyone, have a tendency to exaggerate to the point of lying, are quick to anger at put-downs, are isolated, paranoid, and grandiose."

Narcissists who let their weaknesses get the best of them can bring about disaster. However, per Maccoby, those "who sustain success recognize their vulnerabilities and compensate for them."

In the latter part of his campaign, Trump appeared to moderate his rhetoric and seemed to be following advice from the professionals running his campaign. His remarks after his victory appeared gracious and conciliatory.

So it appears that our president-elect does have the crucial self-awareness that will help him manage his behavior and enable him to channel his leadership qualities.

Every political campaign is defined by issues. Certainly, during this campaign droves of evangelicals turned out with the specific concern of the next Supreme Court appointment.

But I think those focused on specific issues were jumping on a bigger wave — the arrival on the scene of a "change the world personality." The people have expressed their desire for a productive narcissistic interested not in incremental changes, but in igniting the nation, pulling it out of its status quo doldrums and moving it forward explosively into a new era of growth and achievement.

The public seems to have had enough of the status quo, enough of politicians showing up with a tool kit telling them what they intend to tweak. There is a sense that things can and should be much, much better and voters were ready for a dreamer who will settle for nothing less than greatness.

Now it's up to us to help our president-elect deliver.