05/04/2004: The CEO president.....
I've mentioned a few times in this forum that the performance of Dubya is serving as a very clear lesson in the superiority of having a lawyer in the Oval Office over a businessman (and I can't believe that I'm saying this), particularly when the businessman insists on governing by executive summary, briefings by "yes-men", and disengagement with reality. Kevin Drum has an interesting post at "Political Animal" on Our CEO President:
Writing about the deteriorating situation in Iraq, neocon Robert Kagan has this to say at the end of a column in the Washington Post Sunday:Drum here reminds me of a couple of observations on CEOs which Scott Adams (the creator of "Dilbert") shared with those of us who are members of the DNRC ("Dogbert's New Ruling Class"--be warned: you unwashed heathens will serve us come the revolution!!!! Bwah-hah-ha-ha-ha!!!!!!! ;-) ):Bush himself is the great mystery in this mounting debacle. His commitment to stay the course in Iraq seems utterly genuine. Yet he continues to tolerate policymakers, military advisers and a dysfunctional policymaking apparatus that are making the achievement of his goals less and less likely. He does not seem to demand better answers, or any answers, from those who serve him. It's not even clear that he understands how bad the situation in Iraq is or how close he is to losing public support for the war, a support that once lost may be impossible to regain.I'm mystified that Kagan is mystified. Of course Bush's commitment is genuine — but so is my commitment to losing 20 pounds. The problem is that I'm not willing to make the sacrifices it would take to do it.
Bush styles himself a "CEO president," but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them — but then consider the job done anyway because they've "delegated" it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they're unwilling to do the hard work of creating one — all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway. They work hard — but only on subjects in their comfort zone. If they like dealing with people they can't bring themselves to read all those tedious analyst's reports, and if they like numbers they can't bring themselves to spend time chattering with distributors about their latest prospect.
You might have noticed that most CEOs are not eager to work for companies that are already in the crapper and rotating clockwise. That's puzzling, because you would think that a confident CEO who believed in the power of his own leadership skills would prefer a challenge -- something with more of an upside potential. But it seems that given the choice between a hard job, like CEO of Bob's Pastry and Muffler Shop, or something easy, like CEO of General Electric, most leaders will opt for the position that could be handled equally well by a sock monkey.The more I observe the performance of CEOs in most American corporations, the less impressed I am. At least it's good to know that Ol' Dubya is in the middle of the pack.
If you replaced all of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies with Magic 8 Balls™, and came back in five years, you would discover that some of those companies had compiled excellent track records by pure chance. The CEO's job in a huge company is essentially the same as the Magic 8 Ball: saying yes, no, or maybe, without the benefit of understanding the questions. A Magic 8 Ball is highly qualified for that sort of work.
Recently I heard an interview that CNBC did with Lou Gerstner. He said his biggest contribution as CEO at IBM was changing its culture. His example of how he changed the culture is that when he came into the job there was a lot of talk about breaking up the company into smaller companies; he decided not to do that. In other words, his biggest contribution to IBM was NOT DOING SOMETHING. Then he wrote a best-selling book about his leadership. The Magic 8 Ball would have had a 50% chance making the same decision; a sock monkey would have nailed it on the first try.
I want a lawyer back in the Oval Office.
Len on 05.04.04 @ 12:12 PM CST