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The etiquette of dignity

Published Dec 4, 2020, 3:37 pm IST
Updated Dec 6, 2020, 10:41 pm IST
Taking a cue from Michelle Obama’s recent Instagram post, we point out etiquette expected of highly placed leaders
Michelle Obama
 Michelle Obama

Love him or hate him, no one can ignore President Donald Trump or his efforts to stay in the limelight. Weeks after the US election results announced 290 Electoral College votes for former Vice-President Joe Biden, Trump still refuses to concede defeat.

Even as Michelle Obama, wife of former US President Barack Obama, took to her Instagram to slam President Trump for impeding the democratic process, while stating that the presidency doesn’t belong to any one individual or party, President Trump has been behaving like a child unwilling to give up his toy despite the end of recess. ‘Hidden’ away in the White House, Trump continues to sulk, inaccurately claiming on Twitter voter fraud and faulty vote counting, falsely proclaiming victory in a race he lost.


The ludicrous conduct so unbecoming of a leader of the oldest democracy. But the indignity he presently showcases is merely one of the many etiquette gaffs Trump has displayed on the world stage, be it nationally or internationally. While on the national podium he mocks not only his opponents but also the differently abled, internationally, he makes blunders that may even appear intentional. During his 2017 tour to Japan, for instance, Trump criticised Japan’s inaction on not bombing North Korean missiles, stating not too subtly that modern Japan was weak. Then there was a lunch, where unlike his predecessor Obama who when visiting the Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe in 2014 had dined with him over sushi, Trump chose to eat burgers made with American meat… er… in the sushi capital of the world!


Few guidelines on etiquette

1 Practise civility, professionalism and decorum in public forums.

A public servant, an elected representative or even a very senior leader in a company should avoid making belligerent, personal, impertinent and slanderous comments. They must never threaten or abuse.

Example: Who better than Trump himself for an example? He constantly mocked Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for claiming Native American ancestry (for which she apologised later), calling her ‘Pocahontas’. Many of his office bearers took it as a green signal to mock others, including Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, by calling her Kamalama, Kalamala, Camel Harris, etc.


2 Avoid personal comments | Remember that public personalities are always on display, and whether they like it or not, their actions, mannerism and language are constantly watched by people they may or may not know.

Example: In July this year, reporters claimed to have overheard US Congressman and Republican Ted Yoho, who’d accosted NY City Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the youngest Democrat in the chamber, on the steps of the US Capitol in July this year, calling her ‘disgusting’, saying ‘you’re out of your freaking mind’, and then using an extreme swear word, calling the latter a ‘b**ch’. (Of course, AOC called out the behaviour in the House floor, to let him and others know that such a language was not acceptable.)


3 Honour dignity | As per Donna Hicks, PhD, and author of Leading with Dignity, leaders play a crucial role in creating a culture that brings out the best in people and must know how to honour the dignity of their people while creating policies that are sensitive to dignity issues. And to make dignity and dignity awareness a part of the workplace or social culture, the leader needs to model dignified behaviours. So if a president of a nation appears to not accept the verdict of its people nor honour the dignity of his position, the trickle-down effect could be a chaotic society refusing to accept rules and regulations laid down for it.


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