Steady Hands on the Nuclear Codes: An Open Letter from Leadership Coaches

Amiel Handelsman
6 min readAug 4, 2016


We the undersigned leadership coaches help managers and executives create thriving organizations amidst great complexity. Our clients are highly successful leaders in Fortune 500 companies, startups, government agencies, and not-for-profits.

Ordinarily we don’t discuss politics with clients because successful engagements depend on mutual trust. Political talk can interfere with that. When gathering together, we discuss how to develop people and organizations, not who to vote for in elections. When speaking publicly about candidates, we stay neutral by drawing general lessons from success and failure.

This year is different. The key choice in the U.S. Presidential election isn’t liberal versus conservative or Democrat versus Republican. It isn’t even competent versus incompetent, honest versus dishonest, kind versus cruel, or democrat versus autocrat. The decisive question is one that affects all 300 million U.S. citizens: who will have steady hands on the nuclear codes and avoid provoking leaders of other nuclear weapons states?

On this question the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump couldn’t be greater nor the stakes higher.

That is why we are speaking up.

In defining moments, leadership involves calling forth our deepest virtues and using them for the common good, even if it feels uncomfortable and entails risk.

This is a defining moment for each of us as leadership coaches and citizens. That is why we are speaking up despite the professional risk and personal discomfort of entering the political fray. For example, we stand firmly against the candidacy of Donald Trump. Such strong opposition is atypical in our field. We coach leaders to create positive visions of the future and flip complaints into commitments. But the President has a power our clients lack: to trigger nuclear catastrophe. We are resolved to stop Trump and elect someone we trust to keep safe the nuclear codes and avoid inflaming leaders of other nuclear weapons states.

The media are saturated with evidence of Donald Trump’s unfitness for office. We want to highlight the specific area of unfitness that carries the greatest risk and provides the starkest contrast with Hillary Clinton: Trump’s extraordinary lack of self-control.

Something is not quite right with Trump. We coach high-powered leaders, some with big egos, but in the land of narcissism and erratic behavior, Trump is off the map. He speaks impulsively and loses his cool. He is adept at enraging others. Indeed, he seems to enjoy it. Brain scientists would call him an expert at the “amygdala hijack.” He triggers the “fight, flight, or freeze” parts of our brains.

This may be fun to watch on TV and at rallies but is a perilous habit in a nuclear world.

Trump’s incapacity to control himself often gets lumped in with his dishonesty, cruelty, and incoherence under the general heading of “temperament.” This is understandable but misleading. The world has many dishonest, cruel, and incoherent leaders of state. Most are disciplined enough to avert nuclear disaster. Trump is dishonest, cruel, incoherent and unbalanced. Therein lies the danger.

We do not trust Trump with the nuclear codes. We do not trust him to avoid insulting and enraging leaders of the eight other nuclear weapons states. And in this arena, there are no “checks and balances.” Launching nuclear missiles, unlike a Presidential veto, isn’t something Congress can overturn. When the President insults the leader of another nuclear power, the Senate does not get to “advise and consent” on that leader’s response.

Then there is Hillary Clinton. We observe her calm temperament and measured tone. We may or may not love the thoughts in her head, but it’s clear that her head is on straight. Clinton keeps her cool under pressure, even when attacked. She knows that on a planet with over 2,000 active nuclear warheads outside of the United States, words have consequences.

We trust Hillary Clinton to have steady hands with the nuclear codes. We also trust her to be consistent, predictable, and composed with the eight other nuclear powers.

Many of us will vote for Clinton because we trust her with the nuclear codes. Many of us, especially Republicans and Bernie Sanders supporters, have significant concerns about her positions, decisions, and alliances. We are pausing to reflect before deciding.

The choice in November comes down to one pivotal question: who do you trust to have steady hands on the nuclear codes and avoid provoking leaders of other nuclear weapons states?

We, the undersigned leadership coaches, commit to voting for a candidate with steady hands, calm temperament, and caution with words. Donald Trump is not that candidate.


The individuals listed below have signed in their personal capacity. This does not reflect the endorsement of any organization. We provide titles and affiliations for identification purposes only.


Total: 112 (last updated: Friday, September 23, 2016 @4:44 pm PDT)

Amiel Handelsman, Executive Coach, host of The Amiel Show, author of Practice Greatness: Escape Small Thinking, Listen Like A Master, And Lead With Your Best

Brian O. Underhill, Ph.D., CoachSource, LLC

Jennifer Garvey Berger, Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders

Dr. Mark S. Albion, Faculty Founder, Net Impact

Christine Cavanaugh Simmons

Bob Dunham, Founder, Institute for Generative Leadership

Bill Pullen, President, BPA Coaching and Consulting

Heather Corcoran, Partner, Next Step Partners

Steve March, Founder, Aletheia: A School of Integral Unfoldment

William R. Torbert, Author of Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership

Bill Joiner, Co-author, Leadership Agility

Donna R. Stoneham, PhD, President, Positive Impact, LLC and author The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead

Julie Endress, Executive Coach and Consultant

Teresa Woodland, MCC, Managing Partner of WuDeLan Partners

Julie Daley, Founder, Creative Wellspring

Anna Scott, Colleague

Patti Cain-Stanley, Founder — Cain-Stanley & Co. — Leadership Coaching

Grady McGonagill

Michael H. Cohen, Founder, Kirtan Leader Institute

Beata Lewis, Owner, Bridging Lives (

Kristin Cobble, President & Co-founder, Groupaya, Inc.

Rita Hovakimian, Inspiring Success, Business Coach and Prosperity Mentor

Susanne R. Cook-Greuter

Donna Fowler, President, MindWalk Consulting LLC

Norman Wolfe, CEO Quantum Leaders, author The Living Organization

Bea Rataj, Leadership Coach/Corporate Mindfulness Instructor

Elizabeth Ferguson, Climate Compassion

Karen Jandorf, Executive Coach & Mediator

Rebecca Zucker, Partner, Next Step Partners

Hilary Bradbury, Convener, AR+

Robert L. Weinberg, Ph.D., Leadership Coach,

Molly Gordon, Master Certified Coach

Dennis Ahrens

Ken Homer, Founder, Collaborative Conversations

Helene Roos, President of HDA Consulting

Ruben Rodriguez, Founder, Integral Impact

Kathy Burke, Executive Coach & Founder, K. Burke Associates

Sahar Azarabadi, Leadership Development Coach and Consultant

Betsy Cole, Betsy Cole Coaching: somatic leadership development coach

Charles M Carr, Integral Growth LLC

Robin Parker Meredith, Executive Coach

Gina Tesser Phelan

Heather Bowker, Executive Coach

Gini Beck, Coach, Exceleration Coaching

Allie Middleton , Integrative Leadership Practices

Newell Eaton, East West Leadership Coaching

Stephen Josephs

Bob Eckert, CEO, New & Improved, LLC

Renee Freedman

Jennifer Nash, Executive Coach & Founder of True North Partners

Patricia Weijzen, PCC, Leadership Development Amsterdam

Maryanne Colter

Sandy Machson, Founder and Principal, What’s Next Coaching

Marilyn McLeod, CEO, Author & Coach

Steve Levin

Brenda M. Goodwin, Principal, GoodWin Leadership

Denver Hudson

Barbara Morrill

Natalie Pere

Linda Olson, retired leadership coach

Edna Adler

Julie Rubinstein, Principal Consultant, Rubinstein Consulting

Michael Krot, Co-Founder, KSE Leadership

Kathy Kessler, Executive Coach and Consultant

Barbara Hunter, CEO, HunterRockhold, Inc.

Sarah Cunningham

Cathy Johnson, Professional Certified Coach

Claudia Goldhammer, hr now! coaching & consulting

Winifred deLoayza

Donna Zajonc MCC, Dir of Coaching — -Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)

CB Bowman, MBA, CMC, MCEC, CEO, Association of Corporate Executive Coaches (ACEC)

Jerry Zygmuntowicz, President and Executive Coach, Collaboras Consulting

JoAnn Siebe, Founder, Siebe Consulting & Coaching

Maura Wolf, Author & Leadership Coach

Michelle K Rios

Dan Eisenman, Principal, EPC Executive Coaching

Laurie T. Rosenfeld, JD, MA, Leadership & Executive Coach

Will Burrington, Executive Leadership Coach, Harmony Partners, LLC

David N. Peck, Executive Coach @CoachDavidPeck, Author, Beyond Effective: Practices in Self-aware Leadership

Barb McAllister

Ron Sepielli, Leadership Guide & Advisor

Bert Parlee, Psychologist, Executive Coach

Maria Marsh

Winnie Marie Ore

Sally Hull, Managing Partner, Applied Leadership Strategies

Sheila McAnanly, Principal, Change Agency LLC

Jessica Curtner

Kimberly McNally, President, McNally & Associates

Manya Arond-Thomas, M.D., Awaken Coaching

Eileen Broer, Master Corporate Executive Coach

Jenny Yoder, Executive Coach & Co-Founder, Trinity Performance Group LLC

Laura Tully, Leadership and Team Coach, Laura Tully Coaching

David Emerald Womeldorff

Abigail Van Alyn, Founder, Van Alyn Associates

Rachael Grossman, Founder, Principal

Tasha Capen, Senior Consultant, Future State

Dr. Patrick Bishop, Professor, Marketing & Leadership

Anne K. Auburn, CPCC, CEO-Life Off The Map Coaching

Debra Underwood, Executive Coach

Marc Davidson, Leadership Coach

Sindri Anderson, Enact Leadership

Sue Schleifer, Founder, Oak Communications Coaching and Consulting; Author, The Key To the Castle

Terry Stevens, Executive Coach

Annette Segal, Chief Visionary Officer

David Drake, founder of field of narrative coaching

Dr. Sully Taylor, leadership coach

Penny Carter, Co-founder, Turning Points Incorporated; Executive Coach & Consultant

Mac Carter, Founder, Turning Points Inc.

Charlie Gilkey, Founder, Productive Flourishing and Author of The Small Business Life Cycle



Amiel Handelsman

Executive coach, Dad, husband, reimagining American identity, and taking other fiercely nuanced stands on the world's big messes. More at