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Is Trump an “Effective Leader”?

US President Donald Trump's supporters are happy to ignore his moral shortcomings, so long as he delivers on the "America First" agenda that he promised. But when leaders put tangible results before ethical considerations, their successes rarely stand the test of time.

NEW ORLEANS – No matter how much chaos and disruption US President Donald Trump causes – to trade, business, and even America’s core alliances – his supporters regularly insist that Trump is a leader who gets things done. While Arkansas Senator and almost-CIA director Tom Cotton regards Trump as an “active, engaged, and effective leader,” former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich has gone so far as to describe Trump as “stunningly effective.”

Given these accolades, I was curious about what the undergraduates in my course on leadership theory and practice think of Trump’s effectiveness, so I organized a student debate. One side was tasked with defending the motion that Trump is an “effective leader.” They portrayed him as a decisive go-getter, and marveled at his “chutzpah” in moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Among Trump’s accomplishments, they pointed to the tax-reform legislation that he signed in December 2017, the airstrikes against Syrian chemical-weapons facilities in April 2018, the recent engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and the evolution of trade policy toward China.

The team arguing against the motion focused on the personal attributes usually associated with effective leaders: a moral compass, balanced reasoning, and a disciplined and principled approach to decision-making. Needless to say, they emphasized that Trump comes up short on all counts.