On Wednesday (1/6), I received an email from a friend that read, “Are you watching our democracy crumble?”

Pulling up cnn.com, I saw the following image, which made me legitimately think, “The sky really is falling.”

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever see something like this. I have been disgusted.

In this post, I want to explore President Trump’s role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol Building.

What Trump did that Led to the Storming of the U.S. Capitol Building

On December 18th, Trump announced, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” to protest the counting of electoral votes.

Then, on the morning of January 6th, he spoke to the mob that had gathered and said the following:

  • “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong”
  • “Fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore”
  • “Going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give [Republicans] the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

Then, around 1:00 p.m. the mob moved over to the Capitol Building.

At 2:24, Trump tweeted that Vice President Mike Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”

As a result of this tweet, the mob began changing, “Hang Mike Pence!”

A source close to the Vice President said that Trump did little to check on or ensure Pence’s safety.

Trump’s Response to the Storming of the U.S. Capitol Building

All signs indicate that Trump was “delighted” to hear that rioters were entering the Capitol, and reached out to Senator Tommy Tuberville to make more objections.

Many government officials and presidential aides continually called for trump to condemn what had been done and send resources to assist the police. While he called for the group to stay peaceful, he didn’t condemn their actions. He then issued a video message on social media where he praised his supporters, repeated his claims of voter fraud, and told the mob to go home in peace.”

That evening, Trump tweeted, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”

Why Does Bad Leadership Happen?

Writing what I have honestly makes me feel ill. And, in my opinion, Trump’s actions and leadership during all this were rather poor.

I want to use this situation to explore the question: Why does bad leadership happen?

Let’s Try to Put Ourselves in Trump’s Shoes

Do you think that Trump’s actions were the result of him thinking: “I want to intentionally be a terrible leader and engage in behaviors that lead to the storming and desecration of the U.S. Capitol. I really don’t care if people get hurt, I just want to absolutely destroy my public image in the short- and long-term.”?

I don’t think so.

If we were to ask Trump, “do you feel that what you did was the right thing for you to do in the moment,” how do you think he would answer?

I believe his answer would be, “yes.”

This is at the heart of all leadership, good or bad. Leaders generally feel like they are doing what is best for them to do in the moment.

What Can We Learn From This?

One of my favorite authors, Andy Andrews, has written, “Just because [we] thought a certain way or believed a particular thing—that didn’t necessarily make it truth.”

While all leaders are all trying to do the “right thing,” what they feel as being the “right thing” in that moment:

  • May not be the best thing for us
  • May be really good for us but incredibly detrimental to others

Stated differently, I believe that all bad leadership is good intentions gone awry.

When we understand that is the case, I believe we would do well to deepen our understanding of what leads to good intentions gone awry.

Why Do Leaders’ Good Intentions Commonly Go Awry?

It would take a book to fully answer this question (which I have begun writing), but let me try to briefly answer it.

Whenever we do something that feels “right,” but is detrimental for others, it is because we are in a mental state where we feel the need to either (1) protect ourselves or (2) advance ourselves. When we get in this mental state, we get tunnel vision and can only see the implications for us and we lose sight of the implications for others.

What Leads to the Mental States Foundational to Bad Leadership?

Recognizing this, we need to explore why a leader might get into these mental states, and I believe there are three answers, which are generally interrelated:

  • They are having a body budgeting issue
  • Their mind is not integrated (often as the result of past trauma)
  • They are not as vertically developed as they could be

What this Means for Improving Our Leadership

If we want to (a) ensure that we are not a poor leadership, and/or (b) elevate our leadership to become more of a positive influence, it is critical that we do the following to combat the three bullet points above, respectively:

  • Develop healthy habits (e.g., eat well, get adequate sleep, make sure your contexts are situations where you feel safe)
  • Meditate, engage in other mindfulness practices, and/or work with a therapist/specialist to awaken to and resolve your past trauma (I just read a book called Hollywood Park that I really enjoyed and that emphasized the importance of awakening to and resolving your past trauma)
  • Proactively seek to vertically develop yourself, which I think is best done through a focus on mindsets (I think this blog post will be a helpful resource)