The elected head of state of any country should demonstrate strong leadership qualities as they are responsible for their nation’s domestic and foreign policies and, consequently, the well-being and prosperity of their citizens. However, few leaders manage to excel in their roles without being criticized by their opposition or voters. Some are accused of a range of irresponsible behaviors, including the lack of transparency and accountability, poor policymaking, corruption, and the violation of their country’s acceptable norms. The 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, is viewed by many voters and politicians as an irresponsible leader.
This view of the head of state stems from his annulment of pre-existing executive agreements and decisions and the refusal to be held accountable for his words and actions (Drezner, 2020). This essay will discuss Donald Trump’s presidency and his style of leadership from an ethical perspective.
Trump’s leadership style can be viewed as negligent based on his response to critical situations and events. According to Raphelson (2017), the president of the country is often considered to be a moral guide who can provide clarity and direction in critical moments. As an elected head of state, Donald Trump was expected to behave in a manner that would set an example for his citizens and reassure them in times of crisis.
However, the president failed to do that on numerous occasions, including during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being evaluated as the best-prepared country for a pandemic by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the United States’ response to COVID-19 was assessed as one of the world’s worst (Greer, 2020). Trump’s attitude towards the pandemic can be viewed as one of the primary reasons for the inadequate management of the situation. He admitted to reducing testing to artificially lower the number of positive results, while Republican leaders ended lockdowns despite the epidemiological data suggesting it was premature (Greer, 2020). Thus, it can be argued that during the crisis, Trump failed to lead both his voters and other politicians.
Trump’s way of communicating with the United States citizens and other politicians and world leaders can also be viewed as a characteristic of the 45th president’s irresponsible governance. Before being elected as the head of state, Trump was the star of a reality television series, which, arguably, skewed his idea of interacting with voters (Ott & Dickinson, 2019). During his presidency, Trump relied on reality TV’s logic, including sensationalism and emotional transparency (Ott & Dickinson, 2019). However, this approach to communication can be seen as reckless and immature. According to Ott and Dickinson (2019, p. 17), heads of state are expected to follow certain rhetorical traditions, which Trump refused to do, opting for “evidence-flouting, accountability-dodging, and institution-disdaining claims.”
Trump personally attacked his critics using Twitter and other social media websites and inserted himself into the news narrative to promote his own views and interests. It has to be stated that by expressing his personal opinions on Twitter, Trump was also giving directives as a president. Overall, Trump’s attitude to communication can be viewed as irresponsible and contradictory to the expected rhetoric of a president.
However, Trump’s leadership style also had notable advantages that allowed him to become the head of state. His reality TV experience granted him knowledge of how to unite and motivate people, resulting in his election and continuing support among voters. Furthermore, it can be argued that Trump’s policies are the reflection of the current trend of “re-articulation of the primacy of the nation-state and the reversal of the post-war liberal internationalist consensus” (Stokes, 2018, p. 1). Trump merely mirrored the global tendency of retreating from globalized multilateralism towards cost-benefit bilateralism in his policies, for example, in withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords (Stokes, 2018).
The United Kingdom made a similar gesture in leaving the European Union. Moreover, Trump’s approach to communication via social media platforms, specifically, Twitter is also a manifestation of the growing significance of these websites and his acceptance of this tendency. Although the content of the communication can be viewed as incendiary by some, many of Trump’s supporters appreciated his candor. Overall, it can be argued that Trump used effective techniques of motivating and influencing people, even though they can be viewed as incendiary.
In summary, Donald Trump’s presidency is one of the most debated tenures in the history of the United States. The leadership style exhibited by the 45th president of the country can be viewed as irresponsible and immature due to his imprudent response to critical situations and sensationalist approach to communication. Trump failed to impose effective control measures during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the USA being one of the world’s worst-affected countries. In addition, Trump’s approach to interaction with his citizens and other political leaders can be interpreted as contradictory to the one expected from a president. However, the president’s irresponsible leadership can also be seen as an effective one as he successfully applied it to influence and control the voters and the news narrative.
Drezner, D. W. (2020). Immature leadership: Donald Trump and the American presidency. International Affairs, 96(2), 383–400. Web.
Greer, S. L. (2020). Debacle: Trump’s response to the COVID-19 emergency. In M. D. Pero & P. Magri (Eds.), Four years of Trump: The US and the world. Ledizioni.
Ott, B. L., & Dickinson, G. (2019). The Twitter presidency: Donald J. Trump and the politics of white rage. Routledge.
Raphelson, S. (2017). Fathers of our country: How U.S. presidents exercised moral leadership in crisis. NPR. Web.
Stokes, D. (2018). Trump, American hegemony and the future of the liberal international order. International Affairs, 94(1), 133–150.