Trump vs North Korea: Management Style or Leadership Style?

From Aararat's Workplace Conflict Resolution Consulting Series

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By Dr. Kevin Orieux

What ‘s the Point of Designating North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism?

A quick Google search of Trump’s management style results in fourteen pages of links.  As mentioned in our earlier article  “Is Trump’s Management Style of North Korea Correct?”  there seems to be a plethora of armchair quarterbacks with opinions as to how President Trump should be directing Team USA in attempts to discourage Kim Jong in his continued efforts to establish a nuclear weapon capable of being launched from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea) against America’s allies or even the continental US. 

North Korea is acting in direct opposition to the United Nations Security Council, which as recently as August 5, 2017 unanimously adopted its eighth set of sanctions in the past 11 years in an attempt to cut approximately one third of North Korea’s annual export revenue.  Yet North Korea remains defiant.  Not just openly defiant, but brashly defiant, and not against the US and Trump, but against the world.  If we consider that North Korea is part of the global community, then we can further consider a parallel line of thinking that North Korea is part of the global corporation of peoples.  As business leaders, we understand that corporations have rules and regulations, both internally and externally, just as countries have domestic regulatory bodies such as the FDA, as well as international regulatory bodies such as the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).  The purpose of such regulatory bodies is to ensure safety as well as prosperity. 

Aararat Consulting provides training and resources for senior management and corporate CEO’s that creates synergy while simultaneously reducing employee disengagement, solving interpersonal conflict and enhancing the potential of workforces to be more productive and profitable (as much for their own welfare as for the welfare of the corporation that pays them).  Part of our service includes articles meant to challenge a leader’s thinking and to encourage leaders to develop corporate policies that direct their people to fulfill the corporation’s vision, purpose, and yes, ensure the corporation’s health, viability and profitability.   Along that vein, in our previous article we posed a question to our CEO and senior management readers about how they would deal with dissident voices that acted defiantly against the company’s health and welfare, namely:

“How do you deal with a potential threat to your company’s welfare?”

In recent months, President Trump has been addressing Kim Jong Un’s continued defiance via a war of words, a war that has been fought bilaterally.  There have been cautions, admonitions, as well as threats issued from both sides.  Politely, we call this kind of rhetoric “negotiation” or “posturing” in the hopes of coming to some peaceful form of conflict resolution.  But what if such attempts fail?  Closer to home, what do we do as leaders when our words of caution, admonition and even threats of discipline in the face of overt defiance does not result in compliance to the company’s principles, rules and regulations?

Sociologically, what we can’t do is allow the dissidents to bully their way into the boardroom and undermine the chain of command and reins of authority.  The result is corporate instability internally, both sociologically and psychologically in the hearts and minds of our entire workforce.  Our people begin to feel insecure, and unless something is done to give them a sense of confidence, then insecurity leads to fear, and fear leads to rash decisions.

When mental and emotional insecurity leads to rash decisions then our internal problems become external problems, especially with respect to social media.  As the public becomes aware of our problems, the public passes judgment, just as most of us have probably passed judgment on President Trump in recent months as he has attempted to get North Korea to fall in line with international law.  In our corporations, a drop in public confidence then translates to a drop in share value.  The stability of the corporation is further threatened, and for employees who have a pension plan tied into company shares, then the individual personal security of every employee, past and present, is further threatened.

Getting back to the challenges of being a senior manager or CEO facing challenges with human dynamics and dissention within our corporate community, as leaders we are expected to make decisions and take action.  To do less is cowardice, yet all too often our middle managers don’t take action because they haven’t been trained in the psychology and sociology of human dynamics.  When middle management fails, then the problems land on our desks.

What do we do?

Take action.

In the face of overt defiance when cautions and admonitions fail if we don’t take a stand then in effect we are capitulating to behavior that can threaten the corporation’s viability, and therefore the personal security and welfare of every one of our employees.  This is a recipe for further instability and more corporate suffering, which puts everyone at risk.

Our readers no doubt agree that North Korea’s continued defiance to the United Nations Security Council constitutes a risk to our global corporation of humankind.  The question now becomes, what is the responsibility of leadership when dissidents refuse to align themselves with accepted protocols, principles, and in some cases, domestic or international law?

The answer is – go beyond management strategies to leadership decisions, and take action. 

Colloquially, we “put teeth” to the rhetoric.  In the absence of consequences, there is no deterrent.  It’s a “Cause & Effect” sociological truism that in the absence of consequences, problems get worse. Regrettably, we see this cause & effect truism all too often in our court systems, we see it in our public schools, and in many ways, we see it in the corporate world.  You can’t just turn a blind eye to insubordination and overt disengagement in hopes that tomorrow everything will (magically) work itself out and the morning will bring clear skies, rainbows and butterflies.  Inaction may the path of least resistance, but it’s not a form social justice when it results in lay-offs, branch office closures or filing for Chapter 11.  Besides training management, Aararat provides training for the rank and file, where we provide workshops that help employees understand that leadership has the onus of responsibility to endure the health and welfare of its people.  When people don’t learn to embrace accountability then they put themselves in peril.

While nobody likes being called out, written up or chastised by those in management, if the workforce defiantly chaffs in the face of appropriate managerial responses to established rules, protocols and regulations, then the workforce may as well be signing its own pink slip.  Aararat teaches employees to stop playing Armchair Manager and instead, start being a team player.  Nobody likes playing with a teammate who is constantly whining about the coach or quarterback, because dissention doesn’t lead to victory, it leads to defeat.

At Aararat we teach workforces to change their Us vs Them mindset about those who have been entrusted to manage them by teaching employees to understand that “Being a boss is not a privilege, it’s a responsibility.”  President Trump has been entrusted with the responsibility to safeguard the security of the American people, as well as the corporate peoples of our global community.  In fulfilling that responsibility, he has now placed North Korea on the list of those countries deemed to be a state sponsor of terrorism. 

He has put teeth to the rhetoric. 

This is not a question of Trump’s management style. He has taken a leadership position, because that’s what leaders do.

It’s exactly what every one of us must do, should the situation arise.

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Korean Central News Agency