[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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