US Presidential Elections 2016

What lessons did they teach us?

November 17, 2016 | By Risktal Thought Leadership

Equally, for those who follow politics and those who do not, the 18 months leading to the American Presidential elections 2016 have been nothing short of excitement, anticipation, surprises and a plethora of examples, albeit not always pleasant, of how each party was racing to influence public option and secure the votes needed for the win.

The purpose of this article is not to analyze the political agendas of the candidates or what they stand for; our focus here is about the lessons that we learnt throughout this campaign. Lessons about leadership, lessons of perseverance, insights into human psychology, lessons about communication effectiveness and the importance of selecting the most suitable tools to reach the people.

Leadership and perseverance

  • President Elect Trump, a business man who is the first president who never served in the public sector or the armed forces, came to these elections with controversial heritage of corporate practices suspected to have led to tax evasion, perceptions of discrimination and bullying amongst other accusations that the Democratic Party has focused on throughout the campaign.
  • He entered the elections with clear messages and promises that split the nation in half between lovers and haters.
  • He has been subject to the ugliest campaign of slandering that went beyond his message and his person to reach the privacy of his household and family.
  • Trump was surrounded with many shackles that required additional diplomacy in addressing the crowds and delivering his messages, the most prominent of which is that his contender is a woman and any message can be misconstrued or twisted to reflect sexist behavior.

Two questions present themselves under these circumstances:

  • What would have you done have you been in this situation?
  • What would you expect from a leader in this situation?


In an absolute form, Trump represents a change agent, irrespective if that is good or bad. Corporate literature has taught us over years that change is constantly faced with resistance, we could dare say that there is a direct positive correlation between how drastic the change may be and the magnitude of resistance it faces.

With a divided nation, the divisions within his own party, the level of change that Trump represented, the strength of the opposition that was supported by the current president and administration, the resistance was overwhelming.

Yet despite all of that, Trump persevered, barely changed his messages, barely changed his tone and stood by what he was standing for from the beginning and was triumphant.

On the other hand, a lesson of immature and lack of leadership was demonstrated when Hillary Clinton sent her campaign manager to dismiss her supporters who were up till 2 am on election night, and refused to address them even before the voting process has been complete.

An effective leader is one who follows through on a vision, upholds certain values and perseveres in the face of difficulties and opposition to achieve the desired objectives, whilst staying true to his/her people.  

Communications – the message and the media

  • This election campaign was yet another example of the power of social media. Like it or hate it, we are living in a digital age, where the audience has shifted from main stream TV watching to being their own reporters. People’s posts and posted images have had some of the most profound impact on the campaign.
  • Mainstream media has led one of the most negative campaigns against President Elect Trump, and continued with it after his win. This negative campaign caused the opposition mega budgets, but eventually backfired on them.

“What went wrong?” one may wonder!

A negative media campaign of that magnitude was too negative, biased and in many cases personal that it lost touch with what really mattered and focused on swaying the public opinion based on social fears and phobias, which led them to lose credibility, and consequently the elections.

Effective communication is best when it has a clear message, unbiased submission and communicated in a manner that allows for wide reach of target audience via the most suitable media.

Having the right Team

  • Trump’s election trail was renowned for changing campaign personnel, until he reached the recipe for success by surrounding himself with a strong team of loyal and capable personnel who shared and believed in his message.
  • Watching Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, in any of her interviews, was a living example of how appointing qualified professionals makes all the difference. She was always well composed, said the right things, focused on the message and always stood by the President Elect and supported what he was standing for.

Success is only attainable if you have the right team to support you, who believe in your vision and are skilled, capable, loyal and motivated to help you achieve the desired goals. When the team embraces that their success is achieved by helping their leader succeed then you have a recipe for success.

To Sum Up…

This article is not about the political win of Donald Trump or a commentary on whether his presidency is better or worse for the United States, its people and the rest of the world. No one can deny that the race to the White House 2016 has been such a grueling journey for both the candidates and the people; yet this fierce battle was not short of lessons that we can learn from and apply in other situations of our lives.

Believing in a vision, living by clear and profound set of values, persevering in the face of opposition, having the right team and effectively communicating to the target audience are some vital lessons that these elections have taught us; and of course, never to underestimate the people’s awareness and what they really need.