Trump vs Blatter: Who can we learn the most from?

04 August 2015 -


They’re two of the world’s most controversial leaders, loved and loathed in (almost) equal measure.

What management and leadership lessons can you learn from Sepp Blatter and Donald Trump?

Do they have any redeeming features?

Jermaine Haughton


Never one to shy away from, well, anything, Trump has once again made the headlines for a social media attack on his rivals for the republican presidential nomination, ahead of the first GOP leadership debate on Thursday.

Despite recently promising to focus on national issues rather than attacking party opponents, the billionaire politician wrote on Twitter: “I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that travelled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”

This follows the New Yorker’s earlier offensive comments about Mexican immigrants which has led to many of his business relationships break their ties, including NBC, the broadcaster of his hit show The Apprentice.

Yet, according a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, Trump has surged into the national lead in the GOP primary race with 19%, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (15%) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14%) following – a trend replicated by other polls.

How has he done this?

Here are two central tactics Trump has used to propel himself as the leading Republican candidate at present:


At the heart of Trump’s success is his ability to make people take notice of him, whether they like him or not. Both in his political campaign, and in his business ventures, Trump sells himself as a brand.

Whether it be from his TV roles, his name sprawled across the side of skyscrapers or the melodramas surrounding his marriages, Trump is clearly distinct from his fellow GOP candidates as he is famous and unafraid to boast of his achievements and successes. Comparatively, the average Joe is unlikely to be as familiar with the likes of Jeb Bush and Rick Perry, who reflect the party’s failure to foster GOP candidates with a solid public presence outside of the political system. And in a country where aspiration, success and star power sells, Trump’s self-promotion has placed him in an unexpectedly good position.

Ultimately, business leaders can take brand management tips from Trump and how building a strong and distinct image associated with success and aspiration sells incredibly well with the public.


Combined with a no-nonsense, straight-talking approach, Trump has largely built, or at least promoted, his candidacy on one cause: immigration. While his comments about Mexican immigrants offended many people and alienated many voters, he also attracted sympathisers.

And compared to his opponents, whose policies aren’t defined, his very specific stance on immigration can be perceived positively as Trump standing for something and being a man of conviction. A similar tactic worked for Barack Obama, where the term “Change” was synonymous with 2008 Presidential campaign. Comparatively, how many people remember what John McCain’s slogan was? Or in present times, what do Trump’s GOP rivals Jeb Bush and Chris Christi stand for?

Business leaders can learn from this as it reflects the importance of having a philosophy for their company, or purpose for which all the business’ workers strive for. At Apple, for example, Steve Jobs strived for products to echo simplicity. Simple in product design, simple for users to operate and simple in building a connection between the public and the firm.



Following the FBI’s indictment of several football officials, including a number of Blatter’s right hand men at FIFA, for allegation of bribery and money laundering, the former Swiss lawyer announced his decision to step down as the organisation’s President after 17 years.

In the midst of all the controversy, there are two major lessons business leaders can learn from Blatter:


Pre-Blatter, football was heavily governed and targeted towards the needs of the rich European nations. When England won the World Cup in 1966, for example, African nations weren’t even allowed to qualify for the tournament directly.

Contrastingly, Blatter’s leadership has seen football’s premier tournament hosted in new regions for the first time, Japan and South Korea in 2002 and South Africa in 2010.

Blatter’s supporters argue opening football up to new markets has empowered the sport, bringing more sponsors, money and competition to the game, as well as attracting global audiences to the existing football leagues, such as the English Premier League.


Bosses can also learn from FIFA’s investment in infrastructure projects around the world. Of the £1.6bn profits the governing body made from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, from TV rights, sponsorships and ticket sales, about 70% of the profits go back into football via its 209 member associations. Although critics argue this policy has been misused to allow for corruption from officials, there are clear examples of World Cup earnings being pumped back into the sport.

More than £8m has been spent in recent years on developing artificial pitches, academies and a new football headquarters in India, where government funding is almost exclusively reserved for more popular sports like cricket. Further growth is expected in the South East Asian country, with the building of new stadia and facilities, when it hosts its first Fifa tournament, the Under-17 World Cup.

Similarly, FIFA spent millions rebuilding football in footballing minnow Zambia, after the bulk of its finest national team were killed in a plane crash in 1993. Including the construction of the Football House, the investment rejuvenated the sport among competitors and spectators in the country, which helped the impoverished nation win 2012 Africa Cup of Nations against all the odds.

Images courtesy of Andrew Cline & 360b via Shutterstock

Powered by Professional Manager