Mark Burns seemed to hit the political jackpot. In a matter of weeks, he rose from virtual obscurity as a South Carolina televangelist to national prominence, speaking at the Republican National Convention, introducing a presidential candidate at huge political rallies and surrogating for Donald Trump on countless cable news shows.
Then on Friday, Victor Blackwell, the seasoned CNN journalist, had an on-camera interview with him. He asked Burns about a number of biographical claims that recently had been called into question. It turns out, Burns embellished some things about himself. The usually booming preacher looked like a deer in headlights as the interviewer fired shot after shot, quoting directly from the interviewee’s own website. Statements about his military service, his college education and his fraternity membership were raised, all of which proved false.
Burns first tried to dispute the challenges, even suggesting that his website had been hacked. Soon he realized it was hopeless so he began to change his story in real time before finally walking off the set and leaving Blackwell and crew alone in Burns’ own tiny tele-church.
It was excruciating to watch but the story here is not about the public meltdown of Mark Burns’ five minutes of fame. What is newsworthy is the fact that the Trump campaign was, yet again, derelict at performing a most basic managerial function — finding the right people for the right job. The organization did a classic management injustice to Burns by putting him in a role for which he had no experience. They also failed their supporters (think “loyal customers”) by neglecting to do even the slightest bit of due diligence prior to catapulting an unknown televangelist into the glaring and unforgiving spotlight of an American presidential campaign.
Most successful CEOs know instinctively that the single most important task in management is to surround themselves with the most qualified and talented leadership team they can find. Indeed, Donald Trump’s cornerstone argument about why he, a businessman with no political or policy experience, is qualified to be our President is that he possesses superb managerial skills from his business career. After all, how many times has he said he would surround himself with “the smartest people around. You know, people like Carl Ichan.”
So, why does the man who wants to become the CEO of the free world, in fact, consistently surround himself with unproven and unqualified people? Even the most critical managerial role in his world right now— the campaign chairmanship — has been filled repeatedly with people who have had no previous experience in a role like that. No surprise he’s on his third one.
Running for president is the major leagues. One needs the best of the best — seasoned, experienced management — to run a complicated, multi-faceted campaign organization. So why does it seem like the CEO candidate is managing a campaign for zoning commissioner of a small suburban town?
Donald Trump’s repeated demonstration of his lack of basic management skills is breathtaking. And make no mistake about it, at the end of the day, Donald Trump is calling the shots in this campaign. With her own trustworthiness challenges in the polls, Hillary Clinton is very lucky that voters are questioning something far more fundamental in Donald Trump — whether he is even qualified for the job.