Say what you will about Donald Trump, he appears to be willing to reach across the aisle, engage the opposition and listen to opposing viewpoints. That’s a highly useful and attractive leadership trait that’s been sorely lacking in Washington … and pretty much everywhere else, these days.

On NBC’s Today show, the President Elect had nothing but praise and respect for his predecessor. The pair have apparently spent hours on the phone, discussing potential cabinet appointments and what not. “I have asked him what he would think of this one and that one,” Trump said, adding that he takes Barack Obama’s ideas and recommendations “very seriously.”

I wouldn’t exactly call it a budding friendship, but I do think the two leaders are more pragmatic about their jobs than the ideologues they’re usually made out to be. Also Trump is starting to look like a far more nuanced and astute politician than most expected him to be. Perhaps more-so than even he thinks of himself.

”I’ve now gotten to know President Obama,” Trump said. “I really like him. We have a really good chemistry together. We talk. I may differ, in many cases, I differ very greatly. In many cases, I’m the opposite.” But he believes the president “loves the country, he wants to do right by the country. I really like him as a person.”

Now contrast that with all the divisive, angry rhetoric we see every day online. Never mind Twitter and Facebook; you would not believe some of the vitriolic emails I get.

Ben recently wrote, “Steve … you’re a greedy out of touch washed out baby boomer. Pigs like you are what’s wrong with America. Choke on a stogie you rich prick.” Obviously a big fan of my writing.

Then there’s this lovely communique from Karen:

So, Steve, is there a particular reason you are such a hostile, arrogant, and grotesquely biased a–hole?

Alcoholic father? The wife a disappointment in bed? Undiagnosed personality disorder? You are clearly as delusional as you are offensive, and I can only hope you grow balls big enough to get the help you need for your toxic mind and displaced rage. Though your kind rarely does.

And my all-time favorite from Doug, an out-of-work engineer who apparently blames me for his inability to get a job (warning, raunch alert):

I won’t go into the specifics because I’m sure you don’t give a shit, but I just wanted to say this. F— you and that piece of shit article you wrote you smug dildo f—ing c—. You have no idea what the real world is like because you’re too busy living in your bubble. I hope you die soon so the world has one less slime bag on it. F— you.

Trump may have tweeted some pretty nasty stuff during the campaign. And I’m sure nobody needs to be reminded of how he went after Obama and Hillary Clinton, and vice versa, during the election. Clearly, there’s no love lost between any of them. And yet, they’re willing to put that aside in the interest of uniting a divided nation. Go figure.

They may not stand among the greatest leaders I’ve worked with over the years, but when push comes to shove, at least they know their priorities.

I’ve seen every kind of leadership style you can think of, from abusive a-holes to father-like mentors. In the end, they all worked hard to succeed at their jobs. As a practical matter, that often meant embracing the opposition, challenging their own beliefs, and being open-minded to different perspectives.

That’s more than I can say for most. Maybe that’s what sets them apart.

For more on what it takes to be successful in today’s highly competitive business world, get Steve’s new book Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, or IndieBound. It makes a great gift for anyone on your Christmas or holiday shopping list!

Image credit: YouTube screen shot of The Tonight Show 

  • Interesting. Sorry you’ve gotten all the invective. It’s stupid (I’ve gotten my own share of poignant Keyboard Kommando “death threats” over stuff I’ve posted). All I know of you is what I’ve gleaned from your excellent book, and via reading some of your columns and blog posts. Suffice it to say that we don’t agree on everything (and, the vulgar, belligerent Trump freaks me out), but I have great respect for your education and life accomplishments. Keep up the good work.

    • Steve Tobak

      Unfortunately comes with the territory. If we agreed on everything, that would freak me out. Feel the same about Trump but I’ve seen far worse in the board room. Thanks.

      • Pat Mat

        Absolutely agree. Big good daddy is home.