communication malpractice and its effect on leadership



“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

James Humes


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw


say out loud oopsWe have all said stupid things.

We have all said the wrong thing.

We have all said, despite having searched for the right words to say, a poor choice of words.

That said. In the business world many of us have a responsibility to communicate by planning, preparing and managing the words we say.

No. We still do not always get it right, but we still practice the best practices of effectively good communication.  Well. I imagine I could say … many of us use best communication practices and treat communication as a privilege and not something we are entitled to.

Outside of those who respect communication a healthy dose of communication malpractice occurs day in and day out. Suffice it to say I see communication malpractice all the time and everywhere in almost every business scenario.

And I have a prime example for today.

As everyone knows I have a variety of gripes with Trump, but the one that most likely cuts me to the professional core the deepest is his communication malpractice <although his business philosophy of ‘winning is all that matters … not how you win” is fairly close>.

And while he is certainly not alone on this issue … he is clearly the poster child for communication malpractice.

I admit. It is quite possible I penalize Trump more because of the position he is in, but I tend to judge people like him, who have attained that success and that responsibility, more harshly & critically <just as I judge myself harshly with regard to effective communication>.

We should demand better things from certain people because of their roles & responsibilities.


That is a Life truth.

But let’s talk about communication malpractice.

If you can ignore some of Trump’s heinous ideas you could quiet easily be critical of:

  • his communication ‘split personality’ flow, and
  • his narrative juggling, and
  • his lack of logic construct, and
  • the overall maddening needlessly complicated structure of his overall communication.

Overall he leaves more unanswered then answered and by the conclusion you will find you haven’t been able to even find your way back to where he started.

That is a broad overview of communication malpractice.

Look. I have my own communication problems.

I lose sight of my pronouns.

Sometimes I lose sight of my pronouns and say an “I” when I mean a “we” … or a “you” instead of an “us” … crap like that. Anyone in the communication business knows that this kind of stuff can not only confuse the listeners <on occasion> but more often it can create an impression of ‘me’ being more important <or egoist> than the greater good.

It is a bad thing to do <even when not intended> and it creates more issues than it is worth.

I can interrupt.

Sometimes I interrupt someone <although in my head it is “interjecting a thought”>. Mine is most typically not to stop or course correct but rather to accelerate. Accelerate the thought being said and accelerate to a conclusion or accelerate to, well, you get the thought.


No excuse. It can be aggravating.


I prepare.

intentional-beI map out thoughts.

I plan an overall narrative.

I pay attention to construct <box in thoughts and triangulate logic> within a narrative.

I think about individual words.

I am intentional.

Trump does not appear to do any of those things. Well. He may with regard to teleprompter speeches, but in non teleprompter speeches and speaking moments he does not appear to do any of those things.

That is communication malpractice.

Every leader, worth half a shit, understands the serious consequences, the dangers, of taking a lax approach to communication.

Every leader, worth half a shit, understands the practices of effectively managing the words that come from their lips.

Every leader, worth half a shit, understands that words do matter and a solid rational approach is at the core of any good communication.

Every leader, worth half a shit, understands that even if everyone wants change that actual change management is best led by a calm hand, some steady logic and more than some vague “eliminate bad” without suggesting what the actual “good” would be that replaces it.

This would suggest that Trump is not worth half a shit with regard to communication, but is constantly full of shit as a common practicioner of communication malpractice.

But all those things are simply lazy aspects of communication malpractice.

lost brainIt is on my next point in which he belongs being sent to communication purgatory as the poster child for communication malpractice.

He wastes a good idea and thought. Absolutely wastes them.

Hidden within his absolutely horrible speeches and debate monologues and interviews he actually offers a number of viable ideas & valid points all scattered randomly within whatever he says.

Look. He doesn’t even have to do a “3 take-aways” that the media & public could conclude <and share> — because if something is worth a shit people will inevitably talk about it – but for god’s sake could you stay on the issues you do want discussed?

Time & time again he fails even within the first 15 minutes to effectively communicate the important shit which makes anything worth a shit that comes afterwards almost irrelevant <and certainly not discussed>.

It makes me question whether he knows how to close a deal.

And here is maybe the craziest thing. He commits communication malpractice whether he is prepared or unprepared.

Consistently he shows a lack of understanding for the complexity of the job and he certainly shows a lack of understanding with regard to communicating the complexity of what need to be done.

That is communication malpractice.

And to make my point I will even show some good communication practices highlighting how he could coalesce the random logical bits of his thinking into some semblance of a real thought.

Triangulating: so people can see the space within where they would benefit.

As I have noted before … imagine if he said: when asked about how to keep jobs in America, he said: I would lower business taxes to make it more lucrative to stay, I would reduce regulations to make it easier to stay and raise import taxes on those who do elect to leave to make it less appealing to leave.”

Boxing: so people can see the space in which they, and their idea of a country, would prosper.

Imagine if he said … in a globalized world it is imperative America embrace its greatness because the number one thing America exports is not just its products, services, ideas and ingenuity but rather the heart & soul of freedoms. Our country needs to secure its borders not just for security but to energize who and what we are.

Decrease illegal immigration and increase legal citizenry to maximize current American citizenry.

Decrease wealth at the top 1% and increase wealth in the middle class.really look say what

And within the borders we will not bring back jobs but instead create a new economy which will be the future state for the rest of the world.

Everyone wins, everyone has opportunities and everyone is part of what makes America great.

As it was, as it is and as it will be.

Our country needs to nurture the spark of what exists within our borders … the people, the opportunities, the infrastructure and the jobs in order to burn brightly as a beacon of what should be globally but also to light the way for opportunity globally. That is why we need to secure borders, have legal citizens, increased.

<note: he is too stupid to notice but if he did this the likelihood of terrorism decreases and security increases as prosperity stretches into a larger legal citizenry>

More from less: so people can see efficiency supporting effectiveness.

Imagine if he said … “have a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce that workforce through attrition, exempting jobs in the military, public safety and public health … and require that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated … and institute a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service … and have a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government … and have a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.”

Oh. That last one. He did say that. But we missed it all because he committed communication malpractice with regard to focus.


The other communication malpractice he consistently exhibits which eliminates the necessary link between words & listeners.

This would be his ignorance with regard to the context of the communication.

Yeah. Where you are matters in communication. Some people suggest this is pandering to the audience. I would suggest it is, at worst, “pandering to the moment” and at its communication best practice concept it is “understanding context for your words.”

For example … if I were speaking at Gettysburg I would industriously avoid self-reference. The location and the context of what happened there demands nothing about “I” and instead demands reflection of “we-type sacrifices” for freedoms, for country and for the costs of getting it ‘right’ as well as getting it ‘wrong.’

Would I be willing to center a communication around “restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington?”  Yes. For Gettysburg is a dark example of what happens when Washington gets it wrong.

Would I be willing to discuss “rigged”? No. Because that is a distorted view of what the Confederacy could have argued and I would rather focus on ‘together better’ than ‘house divided.’

That is communication best practice.

Anything other than that is communication malpractice.

Here is the thing <of which I assume is my larger point with regard to grow-your-box-inside-up-out-ideas-lifecommunication and why malpractice is expensive>.

He sometimes has splinters of valuable things to communicate and if he put them together he could build a fairly attractive house.

Communication is, and will always be, about conceiving a message, sending it, insuring it is received properly and confirming the messages have been received. Any failure at any point in this logic flow equals ineffective communication.

In general I believe Trump does not respect words <I am not sure he respects anything other than … well … his image>.


And, yet, as I write about communication malpractice I find some solace in, well, words – literary words.

In a world, and politics, where everyone is shouting at the top of their lungs telling everyone what is wrong with the world and offering platitude hollow “there is no other right way to do this” solutions let me share some words of thought:

  1. Caution when hearing the solution prophets:

Do not fear ashes, do not fear curses,

Do not fear brimstone and fire.

But fear like the plague the man with the rage

To tell you, “I know what is required!”

Who tells you, “fall in and follow me

If heaven on earth’s your desire.”

<an unsourced Russian ballad>


I know. I know. We have all seen and heard thoughts like this and I believe we all know in our heart of hearts that we agree <although we may not discriminate as well as we could & should>. But I liked this because it had a slightly different twist.

The twist? Do not fear passion. I liked it because there are a bunch of smart people out there who know that something needs to be fixed or “tuned up” with regard to America <and they love America while knowing it>.

These people may not be able to offer specific solutions and they acknowledge so. Yet, with some brimstone, fire and curses they make people take note of the issues at hand. They practice the best of communication practices with good intentions. And that is their role in the situation.

It is those who speak with the rage of solution certainty we should fear or at least view with a jaded eye.

These types of speakers are appealing because in today’s world we seem to be seeking the infamous ‘plan to make America great again.’

Well … folks … I got news for you. We can certainly have a plan and I can Frustrated redhead woman asking whereguarantee you that both parties have a plan <just as both are concerned with debt & unemployment & all the important issues just as equally>, but everyone seems to lose sight that part of solutions is ‘adaptability.’

Great organizations, businesses, succeed because of a well articulated vision <which both Republicans and Democrats share – just not the tactics to attain the vision> and the ability to adapt to the situation as it occurs <because, trust me, if anyone believes solving any country’s issues is a straight line solution than they belong in a loony bin>.

I believe it is communication malpractice to unequivocally state “I know what is required.”

Communication best practices suggest you have to effectively communicate a plan that has the ability to adapt to the challenges they will inevitably face.

  1. Caution with the silence and inaction of the majority <masses>


“The mouse dreams dreams that would terrify a cat.

Armenian proverb


“Insurrection is a machine that makes no noise.”



Metaphorically the bulk of a population, or employee base, are the mice. Sorry. I know that doesn’t sound good, but you get the point. I hesitate to call it the 99% <because the 99% is not all the same>, but suffice it to say the 1 to 5% who lead and guide, and misguide, are the cats.

And they pretty much all look the same because, well, they are cats.

Beyond that silly notion is a non silly thought. We mice dream of things the cats cannot envision (despite the fact I keep on hearing that they think they do).

These politicians, and many business leaders, often live in La-La land. They have the best intentions and I do believe they have some specific solutions which will help us and the country.

But they have no frickin’ clue what keeps most of us awake at night every frickin’ night we go to sleep. They have no frickin’ idea what we are thinking as we slog our way through the day. And they are absolutely clueless as to what we feel as we sit at the dinner table opening up our pay stub on one side and all the bills we have to pay on the left side.

They say it … and I think they believe it … but … they have:




And that leads me to the second quote from Trotsky. As the leaders tell everyone what they are dreaming and stand there talking and talking … and well … talking … the possibility of insurrection is occurring with little or no noise … uhm … okay … it is <I actually wrote the ‘little or no noise’ back in 2012 … one of the few futurist thoughts I kind of got right>.

The point is that insurrection tends to gain momentum without warning.

Now. I am not using insurrection as Trotsky actually did, and was involved in, but the point is the point. When people <the mice> get fed up <or fired up>. When they stop being angry strategy thinker plansatisfied with simply dreaming dreams <which would terrify the cats> they do something.

And that is called ‘insurrection.’

All that scary stuff said, I typed all of that because while I do think it matters who wins US elections what really matters to a new president is that the mice are pissed at the cats.

And we need someone who doesn’t commit communication malpractice because when mice are pissed logic & words truly matter.

Partisan politics doesn’t need to cease, but there has to be a compromise. Or, in the end, there will truly be some type of insurrection. Because, in the end, that is what democracy is about … people <the mice> … and what they want.

While elections bring out the best, and worst, of the everyday people’s opinions in the end all they really want is something to be done.

Ok. Things done that are well crafted and not compromised into ineffectiveness through partisan politicking.

Insurrection is a quiet machine. And it demands leaders who choose their words wisely and respectfully and logically … and … uhm … honestly. I do not care if we are talking about a country or a business communication malpractice is a blatant unacceptable irresponsible act at any time and a grievous act in times of angst and need.

People will argue with me on this last point <and they have>, but where communication malpractice rears is ugliest head is in vision.

I can choose fear or I can choose hope. Simplistically those are the two paths a leader navigates in communication. And, yes, these are the two choices (not hope versus pragmatism).

Hope wins out over pragmatism because the reality, which a certain % of the American population will realize, is that whatever “plan” is presented will be torn up and have to adapt to a changing environment anyway.

A leader always recognizes that more needs to be done, but they also do not diminish the fact that things have been done.

I like hope and I always believe it should be linked to the building blocks that help us attain the hope.


Let me correct that. I love hope <and the building blocks>.

And I think any leader who discards hope as part of their communication is performing an aspect of communication malpractice.

I want a president, or a leader, to communicate to us the light at the end of the tunnel for god’s sake.


I used Trump to discuss communication malpractice because he is an expert practioner of malpractice. And while, on occasion, I worry a little that his malpractice has larger repercussions for the country and while I believe he implements communication malpractice on a daily basis and while I believe he is oblivious to the larger unintended consequences of his irresponsible communication behavior, I do believe in one very important thing.

Free speech.

Amendment I.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


He lives within the same constitution you and I do. Therefore, if this asshat wants to speak whatever venom toward our democracy during the election as well as during his presidency … well … he has that right.

And, you know what? I believe he should speak loud and long (no matter how painful, reckless and corrosive it may be). Because the 1st amendment is part of a larger document <some call it the Constitution> which suggests that the whole is stronger than the parts and that empowering the parts inevitably makes the whole stronger.

And maybe that is my larger point.

Great organizations outlast individuals who perform communication malpractice.

Sure. It can create angst and it can create conflict and it can create friction … all of which inevitably creates the spark from which the greater good, the whole of an organization, rises up to become a beacon for something better.

Do I believe Trump is creating damage? Yes.

Do I believe it is mortal damage? No.

America is bigger than one person. And the constitution provides clear boundaries for what we shall accept <even if we don’t like it> and what we shall do moving forward.

In the end.

It is communication malpractice to not acknowledge effort, and doing, and think before you speak listdreaming and what we can do together.

It is communication malpractice to not offer logic.

It is communication malpractice to not offer ideas in a cogent fashion.

And it is absolute communication malpractice to waste good ideas in poor communication.

Trump has taught us a lot over the past several years – mostly bad.

Ok. Lots bad.

But he has reminded us of a lot of things, in this case,  communication malpractice. Communication takes work. You have to be diligent with regard to the words you use and how you protect, and project, your ideas.


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Written by Bruce