ICE Paid Famous Motivational Speaker for ‘Leadership Training’

In TYT Investigates by TYT Investigates1 Comment

By Ken Klippenstein

At the same time that the Trump administration authorized its controversial border separation policy, morale at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may have received a boost from an unlikely source: a famous motivational speaker with a history of criticizing President Trump.

ICE awarded a $98,000 no-bid contract for “customized Simon Sinek leadership training” to take place between April 26 and May 15, according to federal procurement records reviewed by TYT. It was on May 7 that the government officially began implementing its policy of separating undocumented immigrant families.

Sinek is a well-known motivational speaker, perhaps best known for his New York Times bestseller, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. To give you a sense of his fame, according to Sinek’s website, his first TED talk “rose to become the third most watched on, with over 37 million views and subtitled in 46 languages.” (TED’s website shows that Sinek’s talk has racked up over 39 million views.)

Publicly, Sinek has been a critic of Trump, writing on his blog,

“This is how so many dictators came to power. It didn’t matter if they made sense—what mattered was that they promised to take care of the thing we blamed for making us feel uneasy about our own state. In the case of Donald Trump, Mexicans, Muslims, and others.”

In a YouTube video titled “DONALD TRUMP IS A REFLECTION OF US,” Sinek attributes the rise of a figure as flawed as Donald Trump to our own flaws.

“Maybe we’re the ones who are divisive. Maybe we’re the ones who are narcissistic. Maybe we’re the ones who are putting our interests ahead of the interests of everybody else.”

In the video, Sinek said Trump “is using fear to advance his personal selfish gains.”

He also criticized the Republican Party for having “used fear as a tool for short-term gains . . . they laid the foundations for [Trump’s rise].”

Just days after Trump’s inauguration, however, Sinek appeared at a private retreat for GOP leaders, interviewing Vice President Mike Pence at a dinner there.

In April of 2017, President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, wrote on Facebook,

“One of my favorite speakers, Simon Sinek, teaches us the power of asking simple questions to inspire action—’We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.’”

Ivanka Trump’s post also linked to one of Sinek’s TED Talks.

In 2016 he gave a lecture that became a viral sensation on YouTube, in which he diagnoses the problem with millennials (entitlement, social media, cell phones, and so on.)

The lecture drew criticism, with a Huffington Post contributor writing, “I love your books Mr. Sinek, but with all due respect, your answer on millennials in the workplace is wrong.”

The details of Sinek’s leadership training have not been disclosed by ICE. The procurement documents say no other sources were to be considered, indicating that ICE considered Sinek’s “customized” approach uniquely appropriate for its leadership training.

Sinek’s website says, “Leadership is all about integrity, honesty, and accountability.” It also lists a number of daylong leadership workshops. Leadership components Sinek cites include “emotional intelligence” and “open avenues for feedback.”

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more,” the site says, “You are a leader.”

Ken Klippenstein is a freelance journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

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