Leader Trends: Are We Crude Leaders?

By | June 20, 2018

[June 20, 2018]  Occasionally we hear about crude leaders who are unsophisticated in what they say in front of people they lead.  Crudeness is, of course, in the eye of the beholder but there is sufficient information to believe that many leaders are crude by exceeding social norms and are actually more successful in communicating their message.

The subject has arisen lately that senior political leaders are using this as a new tactic to gain the attention of their citizens.  This approach to be crude and also impolite in their method of communications does fulfill one necessary ingredient of effective communications; it gets your attention.

U.S. President Donald Trump is the latest to effectively use this tactic.  He has called a number of politicians by crude and derisive terms.  For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren he calls “Pocahontas” and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un he calls “Little Rocket Man.”  There is a mix of humor involved and one has to appreciate the creativeness of these events.

If leaders must be crude, they should do so sparingly and under the right circumstances to communicate clearly what they mean.  In calling out Pocahontas and Little Rocket Man, President Trump has done so with a surprising amount of wit and charm.  I say surprisingly because politicians do everything they can to never say anything that might even remotely be considered offensive.

Can a leader be crude and expect it to be successful?  Clearly, overuse of crudeness will quickly lose its appeal and effectiveness will decline.  At least that is what we might expect.  But President Trump, as only one unusually example, has made it a habit that has made him more popular than ever.  Conventions of behavior have been broken and his actions show us the value of being a crude leader.

Being crude is so outside the norms of political behavior that Trump is considered unpredictable.  And that is exactly what he wants.  If you must make a deal, then make yourself unknowable.  That is how we win wars and political battles.  There is little to distinguish the two from a strategic point of view and thus why it works.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

26 thoughts on “Leader Trends: Are We Crude Leaders?

  1. Drew Dill

    There are a couple of trains of thought here in the comment section regarding the “perceived” or “misinterpreted” level of the crudeness of leaders. But, whether it’s a distortion by the media or a cultural phenomenon, I will suggest that it is likely both. Nothing happens in a society that does not impact other areas. Just my thinking on this topic. Either way, leaders overall are not increasing in levels of crudeness.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      I think you hit the nail on the head with this one, Drew.

  2. Joey Holmes

    I had to read your article twice to really understand but I think I now have it. These comments are helpful. Cheers!

  3. Janna Faulkner

    Good quote we should all consider, “Expression and thought are inextricably linked: crude language permits only crude thinking.” This is by Sarah Churchwell a British professor. Here is her Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahchurchwell

    1. Gil Johnson

      Yes, good quote but Sarah Churchwell is a bit of a nutjob. Those of us from the UK know her to be a bit over the top, smart, but little common sense.

    2. Watson Bell

      Janna and Gil, interesting subject and reference. Thanks for making my day.

  4. Lynn Pitts

    The maximum effective range of crudeness is zero.

  5. Joe Omerrod

    Really good article today on something I never really considered.

  6. Army Captain

    In the US military, we do our best not to appear crude (nor disrespectful) and I think that is a major reason why we continue to improve upon the professionalization of our folks. Leadership is about influencing people and crudeness does not help achieve that objective.

  7. Edward Kennedy III

    I believe that many of your readers have identified one of the key reasons we believe leaders today are more crude than ever before; the media pushing an ideological agenda that pushes back on people they don’t like. We know the media has an extreme bias that negatively affects their reporting. This means that they will overplay their negative comments on those like President Trump or whoever. it’s not Trump, per se, but anyone not in lockstep with them.

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Edward, good to see you on board this morning. I think you and others here see how biased reporting has made leaders more challenging when you disagree with their agendas.

    2. Bryan Lee

      Hey Mr. Kennedy, I’m one of your biggest fans and always look forward to reading you latest.

  8. Billy Kenningston

    The example of US Pres Donald J Trump is a good one but Eric has it right in my opinion; this is more a factor of reporting than reality. Good job to both Gen Satterfield and Eric for helping put this into perspective.

  9. Eric Coda

    My personal experience is that leaders are LESS crude than ever before. Just because we see some getting more attention, I think that is more a reflection on biased reporting from the media than anything else. Everything I’ve read and seen (that is professionally done) tells me exactly the opposite is true. Leaders today are far less crude than ever before.

  10. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Great topic in this modern age where people are both highly sensitive and more likely to show disrespect. Interesting combination of factors.

  11. Wesley Brown

    I think overall the leaders in most countries today are pretty respectful and are not as crude as we saw in the past. I know that is my personal observation having lived in Europe and South America.

  12. Georgie M.

    Good post today on a topic that has been discussed a lot lately about how to be both RESPECTFUL and get the attention of others without being too CRUDE.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      I agree George. Respect is a key idea that never goes out of style.

    2. Anita

      Leftists complain about Pres Trump being crude but they use it without restraint. What gives?

  13. Gil Johnson

    I find that crude leaders are rarer these days simply because our norms have changed.

  14. Max Foster

    Very interesting. Yes, sometimes leaders have to be crude to get the attention of some of the dumbest people on Earth.

    1. Martin Shiell

      Nearly made me snort my coffee again this morning. Thank you Max for laying it out nakedly.

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