There are lots of opinions out there about Donald Trump. Opinions like he is going to “Make this country great again!” or he is “…a bully, a loud mouth, ignorant, sexist, racist, disgusting example of how horrible humans can potentially be”. I'm not here to support or reject these statements. These aren't the issues that scare me about Donald Trump as president of the United States. What scares me about Donald Trump is his inability to use his brain. Donald Trump likes to think and act fast. He continually operates from a non-conscious reactive mode and that scares the hell out of me.
In the book "Thinking Fast and Slow" by noble prize winner Daniel Kahneman, he talks about two systems in the brain. The Fast is System #1 and it “operates automatically and quickly with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” This is where we operate from when we respond non-consciously and automatically with things we know well like our habits and biases. The Slow System is #2 and it“...allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it including complex computations. The operations of System #2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration". This is the system we need to access when we are thinking of complex problems, especially those problems like war and terrorism and immigration.
Without having mastered the ability to stay cool under pressure we can’t access our best thinking - we can't access System #2. Therefore, we can’t problem solve, work collaboratively and most importantly we don’t have a wide world perspective. Mr. Trump has no ability for self-awareness and control.
Because he has no self-control, my biggest fear is Donald Trump’s non-conscious, knee-jerk reactions will be making high-level decisions about how we run this country, and the world for that matter…and I am afraid that is going to get a lot of people killed.
It’s not just Donald’s racist and sexist attitude that would make him a bad president. We all have biases and if you think you don’t check out this test Project Implicit Social Attitudes at the Harvard Business Review. You will find the results quite surprising.
The difference between a powerful leader and Donald Trump is not that a successful leader is someone without any biases, or anger about the state of our country now. They should be angry with the many difficult issues facing our country today. It is that powerful leaders have the self-awareness to recognize that their first thought or reaction to difficult issues may not be their best response. True leaders know that their first reaction is emotionally charged and that they need to filter that and calm themselves to think clearly before they respond. This is because our emotional brain is part of the System #1 and it reacts much quicker than System #2 – and its reaction is based on habits, biases, things we are used to doing.
We want our Commander and Chief to have the ability to emotionally regulate and access their System #2. They must tap into their best thinking; have insights and a wide world perspective of the impact of their decisions. Donald has demonstrated over and over again he does not have the ability to emotionally regulate.
I’m not convinced that even if Donald Trump could access his System #2 and tap into his best thinking that he would have the capacity to think the kind of complex thoughts needed to run a country like the United States of America.
But I am 100% convinced that his non-conscious System #1 absolutely cannot.