The candidates also had contrasting leadership styles. Trump was an entertainer, a business magnate, and perhaps the least-disciplined presidential candidate in American history. He was notorious for over-the-top 3 AM Twitter storms attacking his various enemies. He was a relentless warrior who mostly embodied the political and symbolic frames, both central to effective leadership. Clinton was a cool-headed policy wonk—strong on details but weaker on assembling them into a compelling vision. She was more attuned to the structural and human resource frames. Her picture of the future was clearer on the details but fuzzier in terms of the big picture. Voters knew that Trump promised to “Make America great again,” but were less clear about Clinton’s core message.
Changing Coalitions The political frame points to the importance of coalitions and scarce resources, and the 2016 election occurred in the context of a deeply polarized nation and a changing electorate. Beginning in the 1960s, the Republicans had evolved from the party of the industrial north to a coalition of economic conservatives (including much of the business elite) and white social conservatives (particularly in the south and the Plains states). The party appealed to the !rst group with support for low taxes, free markets, and free trade and kept the second group happy by opposing abortion, gay marriage, and government programs many whites saw as mostly bene!tting persons of color.
The Democratic coalition, meanwhile, underwent its own evolution in the late twentieth and early twenty-!rst centuries. Members of the white working class, particularly religious and social conservatives, drifted toward the Republicans, but a new Democratic coalition emerged that brought together groups heavily concentrated in and aroundmajor cities—the poor, minorities, and upscale progressives.
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The differences between Clinton and Trump backers in the 2016 campaign re”ected the evolution in both parties. Democrats increased their share of college-educated voters, and Clinton won among women and people of color. But Trump won among whites, particularly white men without college degrees. Tellingly, 81 percent of Trump supporters, but only 19 percent of Clinton’s said that life for people like them was worse now than 50 years earlier (Smith, 2016).
Culture and Narrative The symbolic frameunderscores the importance of culture andnarrative in understanding the election. A critical cultural shift in the U.S. electorate was the gradual decline of non-Hispanic whites as a percentage of the population. People of color had become amajority in four states (California, Hawaii, NewMexico, and Texas) and were gaining in many others. This worked both for and against Trump: demographics were shifting toward the Democrats, but that shift triggered powerful levels of distress and anger among many whites. The specter of terrorism, beginning with 9/11 and continuing with the rise of ISIS, exacerbated voters’ suspicions toward immigrants in general andMuslims in particular. Trump supporters were not poorer thanClinton voters, but they had the lowest opinions ofMuslims andweremost likely to favor mass deportation of undocumented immigrants (Matthews, 2016).
What followed was one of the bitterest, most divisive presidential campaigns in U.S. history. Many Trump supporters saw Clinton as a corrupt, lying criminal who would con!scate their guns, open the door to terrorists, and destroy everything good in America if she became president. They cheered when Trump said that she would be in jail if he became president and nodded assent when he told them that “this election is our last chance to save our country.”Many Clinton supporters found the prospect of a Trump presidency genuinely terrifying. They saw him as a homegrown version of Adolf Hitler—an authoritarian, narcissistic, racist misogynist.
In the end, Clinton got some 2.8 million more votes, but Trump won the presidency. He took the battleground states he had to get (Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) and picked up narrow victories in two blue states in the upper Midwest, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Leadership Lessons from the 2016 Election In the tale of the 2016 election we can !nd many of the lessons for leadership that form the backbone of this chapter. Structure matters but is not always suf!cient for leadership success. Clinton won on campaign infrastructure, but that was not enough to win the presidency. During the primaries, both candidates had to appeal to the partisan zealots who form the party’s base, but Trump de!ed the conventional wisdom that a candidate needs to
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move to the center in a general election to pick up independents and undecideds. He thrived on huge rallies where his passionate supporters devoured his message and showered him with approval. That passion turned out to be critical.
Symbolically, elections are always about shaping the narrative in order to control how voters perceive you and your opponent. Trump framed himself as the only leader strong enough to save America from terminal decline. In his story, the United States had become a weak, borderless nation that was failing on almost every front, and he knew how to “Make America great again.”That catchphrase crystallizedhismessage and ralliedhis supporters. Clinton, better on policy speci!cs than grand narrative, struggled to communicate an equally focused and compelling message. Her catchphrases included “I’mwith her,” “Stronger together,” “America is already great,” and “Love trumps hate.”They added up to a fuzzy rationale for her candidacy. In a change election, Trump offered a clearer message of making things better.
Both campaigns’ efforts to develop a positive image for their candidate were sometimes overshadowed by efforts to persuade the public that their opponents were terrible leaders and vile human beings. Trump consistently referred to Clinton as “crooked Hillary” and labeled her the worst candidate for president in American history. That narrative drew support from an FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail server while she was Secretary of State and from an ongoing drip-drip of e-mails hacked from her campaign by Russian operatives and distributed through Wikileaks. Clinton supporters believed that her momentum was seriously damaged when FBI director James Comey announced days before the election that new e-mails had been discovered that “might be pertinent” to the investigation. A week later, Comey said that it had been a false alarm, but Democrats believed the new announcement served only to keep the e-mails in the news.
Although the Democrats got no help from the FBI or Wikileaks, they bene!ted from a continuing “ow of new material from investigative reporters and from Trump himself to support their framing of him as a liar, misogynist, racist, and tax cheat who lacked the judgment and self-control to be trusted in the White House.
Gender was a central issue for the !rst time in a U.S. presidential election. It both helped and hindered Clinton. She was a powerful symbol to millions who hoped to see the !rst woman president. But leadership has historically been associated with maleness, and research (that we examine later in this chapter) shows that women who seek high of!ce often face discrimination and higher expectations than men. Both men and women are often uncomfortable with women who are powerful or who seem to want power.
In the end, much of the public believed the worst about both candidates—polls suggested that Clinton was viewed unfavorably by 57 percent of the public and Trump by 62 percent. Even many Trump supporters feared that he lacked the maturity and
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steadiness required in a president. But they saw him as the candidate who could bring change to Washington. That was enough to make him president.
We begin this chapter with a historical tour of theory and research on leadership, examining quantitative and qualitative strands that have run in parallel to one another. This will lead us into an exploration of the idea of leadership—what it is, what it is not, and what it can and cannot accomplish. We look at the differences between leadership and power and between leadership and management. We examine the intersection of leadership with gender and culture. Finally, we explore how each of the four frames generates its own image of leadership.
LEADERSHIP IN ORGANIZATIONS: A BRIEF HISTORY In nearly every culture, the earliest literature includes sagas of heroic !gures who led their people to physical or spiritual victory over internal or external enemies. In Egypt and China, we !nd narratives about pharaohs and emperors and the rise and fall of dynasties that date back thousands of years. Ancient Chinese chronicles tell a cyclical story that begins when a dynamic leader leverages disorder and discontent and amasses suf!cient force to found a new dynasty. For a time the new dynasty produces vigorous and far-sighted leaders who create a stable and prosperous state. But eventually corruption spreads, leadership falters, and the dynasty collapses in the face of a new challenger. Then the cycle begins anew. This saga still has a powerful resonance inmodernChina because theCommunist party leaders understand that their dynasty, like all that have come before, may someday lose the “mandate of heaven.”
From ancient times to the late nineteenth century, the leadership literature consisted mostly of narratives about monarchs, generals, and political leaders. Then the rise of big business triggered an interest in the qualities of the giants who founded great enterprises, like Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller. In the same era, social science began to separate from philosophy and emerge as a distinct academic !eld. Scholars like Harvard psychologist William James and the sociologists Herbert Spencer in England and Emile Durkheim in France began to lay the intellectual foundations for a science of society and human behavior based on systematic research.