Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Sorry. If you think we’re dumb enough to pick a political point of view on this shocking election cycle, we’re not. Just because we won’t pick a side publicly, though, doesn’t mean that we aren’t fascinated about the Trump victory. After 30 days of soak time, we’ve dissected this event and offer some leadership and managerial lessons as it relates to the Trump Triumph and the Clinton Collapse. To be clear, we’re not choosing one over the other. Rather, we are spotlighting some colossal learnings that have emerged from this surprise victory.

The Dominant Logic Isn’t So Dominant. The day after the election it was widely reported that a staggering 113 out of 115 different national polls in the four days leading up to the election picked Hillary Clinton, some by a considerable margin, to be our next President. We travel a lot at ELP, and we often stack up our Wall Street Journals and read them in bursts. Three days after the election, over that weekend, we got caught up on our WSJs. Specifically, we read the issues from October 10th thru October 24th. Even the fiscally conservative WSJ was picking or assuming Hillary would be our next President. Believe it or not, there was also talk in that very paper about Republicans conceding both the House and the Senate. To be clear. Crystal clear. Everybody was wrong.

The Lesson? ELP operates in dangerous confines—in high risk/high hazard organizations. We consult for organizations where being wrong means environmental, industrial, or radiological tragedy. The lesson here, especially when the stakes are the highest, is to get that Devil’s Advocate. Seek hard for disconfirming information. Clearly, too many people did not do that here.

Limitations of Data and Big Data. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, were spent on polling and predicting our next President. Superstar predictors from previous elections, such as Nate Silver, swung and missed. Big time. Imagine this. In the day and age when Amazon can predict when we’ll want something even BEFORE we want it or where IBM’s Watson can scan terabytes of data in tenths of a second to predict health outcomes or equipment failures, data, numbers, analytics, and number crunching all left us down and out. It disappointed. We won’t comment on the winner or the loser of this election. However, we will take a stand and say the Biggest Loser in this election was the business of prediction.

The Lesson? Hedge funds employ doctorates in Mathematics and generate unimaginably complex trading models. By the way, some of those same trading models disappointed in terms of predicting the housing crisis. Our lesson is that the human element still matters—more than you think. Getting down, getting out, leaving the office, walking the plant, field time, getting a grip on really what ground truth is—that’s all the human element. A regression or correlation coefficient will never be able to tell us that. Again, the lesson is to use numbers and make data driven decisions, but those decisions should always be informed by the human element. Those that focus on metrics, solely, do so at their own risk.

The Public is Always Different than the Private. In many ways, the Trump win was a victory for Psychology over the field of Sociology. Sociology focuses on how people organize and how we interact in groups—both small and large. Where Sociology is often the domain of the public, Psychology is the discipline of the private. Shockingly, in public settings and in public polling and across social media, people either lobbied or said they’d support Hilary Clinton. While Trump supporters were boisterous at the rallies, in response to media questioning or polling, they were quiet, reserved, and, perhaps, coy. Indeed, some point to this as the damning procedural failure. The inputs were biased or slanted. The polls reported those likely to vote. Even more striking, in the one or two out of the millions that predicted a surprise Trump victory, a ‘curtain effect’ was described. Specifically, when the curtain closed around a voter and public shaming and humiliation were removed from the equation, more people would vote Trump. Remarkably, that seemed to be exactly the case.

The Lesson? Some executives we know just love Town Hall meetings. We’re a touch more muted here. In public, people act differently. They don’t want to ask the stupid question, they don’t want to extend the meeting, and many just fear the social stigma of disagreement or being wrong. Privacy matters. The secret ballot has its advantages. The secret ballot = truth. A public proclamation can be political. A private proclamation is personal, is authentic. Leaders, in our opinions, shouldn’t shy away from the more intimate, deep, one-on-one conversations. That’s where ground truth can be found.

YES SIR/MA’AM!!!!! We are speaking both from what we’ve read in the press along with some inside baseball here. Through some very trustworthy connections (and also reported by some media outlets), we know that Hillary (or her campaign) spent $15 million for a campaign victory party at New York City’s Javits Center. There was even to be a ‘lights-out’ fireworks celebration that was quietly pulled. Our sources also tell us that what the media reported was, indeed, true—she had no concession speech prepared. Nobody spends $15 million and fails to pen a concession speech if he/she believes there’s any chance at losing. She believed, without fail, that she’d be the 45th President of the United States.

The Lesson? We feel, at ELP, that this is particularly damning. What this tells us is that everyone close to Secretary of State Clinton told her what she wanted to hear. The notion that the ‘emperor has no clothes’ applies here. The best executives are strong and humble (and wary) enough to surround themselves with people who will challenge assumptions, push back, and argue against orthodoxy. Without it, executives create an echo chamber where only the good news gets heard.

Advisors and political consultants failed and failed miserably during this political season. At ELP, we’re better than that. If you want expertise, guidance, and courageous feedback, we’re the best in the business. Email Robin Bichy at to learn how we help your campaign!