On November 9th, the world woke up to the unimaginable: Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. For this to happen just five months after UK’s decision to leave the European Union is a lot to take in.
In such moments, our ability to think rationally can easily become overwhelmed, at which point our primal fight, flight or freeze response tends to kick in. Right now, many liberals in the US are curled up in bed with the covers over their heads, hoping that it was all a bad dream. They froze. But they will unfreeze soon.
Others are already taking flight… or at least thinking about it. The Canadian immigration website crashed on the 9th. I have already heard from two friends in the US asking about opportunities here in Singapore.
Such fearful reactions are to be expected as we have just entered uncharted territory — a place we have not been to before. For the first time, the US has a president with no experience of public service, a questionable track record as a businessman, a knack for offending, and a famously short attention span. Will he bring economic success or environmental degradation? Geopolitical stability or new overseas wars? Investment in infrastructure or an assault on prized public institutions?
Yet, as unwelcome as his presidency is, there may be a silver lining…
The sad truth is that a Hillary victory — a perpetuation of the status quo — would have done little to reverse the existential threats of climate change, economic inequality, overpopulation, and resource depletion. But what it might have done is lulled many of us into thinking it was “safe” to go back to our comfortable lives and jobs and hope for the best.
The reality is that even the most competent and best-intentioned politicians were never going to be able to address these issues on their own. We will need far more engaged leaders from the business world and all walks of civil society.
In fact, what we really need is more Star Trek leaders. As described in my upcoming book, The Big Ride – How Leaders Are Actually Created, Star Trek leaders are those who boldly lead where no man (or woman) has gone before. They are able to create visions of a better future that go far beyond incremental improvements on the status quo. More importantly, they have the courage to commit to these bold visions, to dive into uncharted territories and tackle the unknown challenges they entail.
In the book, I talk about “1 percenters:” the rare individuals who naturally seek out the most daunting challenges. Many 1 percenters are already working to make the world a better place; Trump’s election may cause them to redouble their efforts.
But to create the speed of change the world requires, we need to enlist the “9-percenters:” those who have it in them to become Star Trek leaders, but who need an inspiring cause, or a clear and present threat, to unlock their full leadership potential.
This points to the silver lining: Trump’s election was, for many of us, a visceral wake-up call. Ultimately, it may prove far more effective at unlocking new fighters and leaders than another graph showing rising CO2 levels. If just 1 percent of Hillary’s supporters take leadership responsibility for helping to create a better world, it would trigger a tsunami effect.
It’s clear these leaders are not going to come from our political system. So that leaves us.