CEOs dumping Trump will pay a price—commentary


So how will this historic and dramatic breach between a Republican president and the business community be closed?

In a word: carefully.

Businesses will have little choice but to continue to interact with the White House on some level but in a way that acknowledges how devastating and dangerous dancing with this administration can be. It won’t be business as usual. In the short term, look for most of the engagement to happen on the staff level and through intermediaries such as lobbyists and lawyers.

Meanwhile, the president would be wise to remember that good leaders are often good listeners. Kevin Sharer, the former CEO of Amgen, for example, identified listening as the most critical skill for effective leadership, a sentiment I hear echoed continually from business leaders in my ongoing work on identifying the most critical skills for successful leadership.

Pundits suggest that Donald Trump will always be Donald Trump, without change. Yet doing so has consequences, as the recent defections of CEOs and members of the Council of Arts and Humanities, established in 1982 under President Ronald Reagan, clearly show.

As these decisions show, principled business (and other) leaders will not turn their back on the values they have embedded into their organizations. They will continue to speak out when those values are challenged.

President Trump must now recognize and embrace the values of diversity, equality and inclusion and work collaboratively with leaders from business and government.

This is imperative if he hopes to be effective. CEOs, lawmakers and the American public – including myself – will be watching with keen interest.

Commentary by Neal Hartman, a senior lecturer in managerial communication at MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also a contributor at The Conversation, an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

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