How to Be a Misleader

LONDON – Under President Donald Trump, the United States seems to find itself confronting an extraordinarily ego-driven administration. In fact, it’s worse: in his first month in office, Trump appears to be consolidating a type of governance by id.

The chaos now prevailing on the US political scene reflects this. Policies are based on “alternative facts” and Trump’s own mythology as a straight-talking billionaire business mogul (though his back story is riddled with holes). Ignorance of the law has become an excuse to flout it, and to engage in ethically dubious behavior, such as inviting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his Mar-a-Lago resort, or attacking the department store Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line. (Trump re-tweeted his attack on the company from the official @POTUS account, and his adviser Kellyanne Conway then plugged Ivanka’s line on national television.)

Not surprisingly, businesses, which tend to be governed by superego, are actively preparing strategies for managing a presidential tweet barrage. After all, Nordstrom wasn’t Trump’s first target (though it was the first whose shares actually closed higher that day). In fact, many companies are being forced to make firm and public choices about where they stand in relation to Trump, his seemingly endless stream of controversial executive orders, and the politicians who ultimately back him. This is nowhere near business as usual.

Ironically, this bizarre new operating environment partly reflects Trump’s own business background. Trump is used to running his own company with a small team, selected based on his own criteria. His successes and failures were his own. He could choose what to withhold from the public, and he could sell whatever people would buy, caveat emptor.