As members of the Trump administration cycle out of government and into lucrative private sector jobs at breakneck speed, we, as tomorrow’s business leaders, should think about whether such a process is boon or burden. Members of the administration—along with other public servants and private sector executives—must be held accountable for their words and actions as we begin to build tomorrow’s companies and restore faith in civic institutions.
While some aides seeking to leave the administration may regret placing their reputation in the hands of an individual who has never held a position in government, they can’t plead ignorance. Before signing on, every cabinet secretary and staffer knew what a role in the Trump administration would entail. They knew it would mean being asked to lie on camera and to the press. They knew it would mean drafting executive orders and policies that are broadly unpopular, and meant to stoke division rather than to promote American values. They knew it would mean taking the fall for bad public policy and poor political strategy.
The 2016 campaign supplied a veritable orgy of evidence that couldn’t conceivably have been overlooked. These talented public servants surely knew the possible outcomes associated with accepting a role in the Trump White House. Just as Icarus, overwhelmed by the joy of flight, crashed back to earth, administration officials now comprehend all too well the realities of their bargain, and they’re paying a price for their hubris. However, many, if not most, will pivot back to the establishment to prevent a fall from grace.
Very simply, the Washington establishment should refuse to reward White House aides who have flown too close to the sun. By signing on to this administration, every staffer lost the credibility that he or she had built through countless hours of dedicated work. Can we, or, should we, trust these very same aides in private sector positions that require honest decision-making and communication?
A guarantee of an inside-the-Beltway position only propagates a broken cycle. Now is the time to reflect on this process and hold these aides accountable for their decision to join this administration—and everything it represents.
To be sure, this doesn’t mean blacklisting anyone that identifies as a conservative. Diversity of thought is an invaluable asset to companies in every sector, and it should be aggressively pursued. In preparation for our roles as tomorrow’s business leaders, we should be hyper-aware of the dangers of creating an echo chamber. The open exchange of thoughts and ideas, with the intent to raise intellectually challenging issues in pursuit of a better future, depends on varied thinking and colleagues that hold themselves, and each other, accountable. Businesses cannot succeed when they operate in isolation, with employees prioritizing their ego over the success of the firm.
So, as the early exodus begins with some seeking rewards for their time in the Trump administration, let’s stop the cycle and begin holding each other accountable to build the responsible institutions on which the next generation will rely.