Since Donald Trump’s second-place Iowa finish, the GOP presidential front-runner hasn’t taken any real responsibility for falling short of expectations.
But then, his entire campaign has been predicated on blaming others. Blame Mexicans for drugs and crime. Blame Muslims for terrorism. Blame Megyn Kelly for tough debate questions. Blame the media generally for unfair coverage. Blame President Obama for everything.
And now, of course, blame Ted Cruz for losing.
There are some legitimate questions about the Cruz campaign tactics, namely its spreading rumors that Ben Carson was dropping out to entice his voters. But Jon Gordon, an author and expert in positive leadership, said there’s a way Trump could have addressed that without dwelling on it and looking like a sore loser.
“If you’re complaining, you’re not leading,” Gordon said. “Every time you’re complaining, you’re stuck where you are instead of where you’re going.”
Calling out the Cruz campaign’s possibly unethical behavior is appropriate, but then it’s important to quickly move on, he said. Gordon, who advises businesses and sports teams on staying positive, said complaining is only justified when followed by a viable solution. Redoing the Iowa caucuses, as Trump has suggested, is not one.
On Monday night, Trump showed actual humility in his immediate post-results speech by saying he was “honored” by the results and congratulating Cruz and the other candidates. But it didn’t take long for him to start making a series of excuses for why he came in second.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, called Trump’s response “a great optics lesson in how not to lose.”
What Trump is expressing now is actually a completely normal human instinct to losing, she said. Most people want to take credit for their victories and place blame elsewhere when they lose. But the difference, she said, is how they then manage those feelings. It’s important to not come down too hard on yourself, but it’s also important to take some personal responsibility.
“Look at what your role was in it and look at all the impinging factors,” she said. “You have to find a way to regulate those emotions.”
Despite all his bombast and confidence, losing would have bruised Trump’s ego, particularly because of how long and hard he bragged about always being a winner. “We’re always trying to preserve a positive identity,” Krauss Whitbourne said.
If Gordon were coaching Trump, he would have advised him to mention his concerns about Cruz but not belabor it — to take the high road and say, “Let him have that one; we’re moving forward.”
“Going to the past is never good for a leader,” he said. “Donald Trump needs to trust the process more.”
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