The Model for Communicators of New President

Like politicians, business leaders and their ideas are elected. Not by a formal vote, of course, but by winning the confidence and support of others in their organization — people who enthusiastically endorse their abilities and points of view. Gaining support is not an easy task, and many leaders fail because they’re not good at it. Their pitches fall flat, and they are left struggling to motivate and engage because they can’t articulate a clear message.

That is not a problem Donald Trump appears to suffer from. In spite of his having polarized the U.S. electorate, his ability to make an impression with enough voters in the right states has taken him to the White House. One reason Trump’s opponents felt sure he wouldn’t win is that he routinely violates so many of the classic principles of effective speaking. He talks quickly, bounces from topic to topic, emphasizes the negative, and often fails to finish his sentences or provide details to substantiate his assertions. And yet his political successes have been clearly linked to his oratorical style.

Whatever you think of his themes or his style, there is something to learn from Trump’s way of speaking. It’s not his bombast or his impulsiveness that persuades others; it’s his ability to stick to a story line. Below the riffling surface of his stream of consciousness, there is always a carefully crafted narrative that frames reality in extremely simple terms. It’s this story that makes an emotional connection with people, even if they are predisposed to resist him.

A few writers, who noticed Trump’s ability to connect this way, predicted he would win during the campaign. One was Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, who called him a “master persuader.” Another was Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (Thomas Nelson, 2003). Miller wrote that as people seek to make sense of the complex world around them, they are drawn to narratives with “a clear and condensed version of life.” Trump won because he delivered that type of story.