Pale Wire (Popscene)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Hail to the CEO

Fun Fact: George W. Bush is the only president in American history to have an MBA (a master's degree in business).

Today, Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post has an interesting column about how President Bush's CEO mindset informs his attitudes and affects his decisionmaking. In it he compares some of Bush's recent moves to those of faultering businessmen. I like the piece and think it's a great angle, but, like most newspaper columns, it's a little to superficial to be considered great. Click here to read it for yourself.

Noel Tichy, a management expert at the University of Michigan, notes that when Jack Welch faced a crisis when he was chief executive of General Electric, he would drop everything he was doing, scramble his audit team and descend on the problem unit. Over a weekend, he would conduct his own detailed investigation. And on Monday morning he would show up personally at the Pentagon or the SEC with a report on what went wrong, who would be fired and what he was going to do to make things right.

Something like that would never occur to Bush. His view of the leader's role is to set broad goals and vision, delegate everything else to trusted subordinates and stay the course when things don't go exactly to plan. But as Michael Maccoby, a Washington psychoanalyst and management consultant explains, it is that unwillingness to get into the details and the lack of interest in hearing divergent views that create a kind of ideological rigidity, rendering Bush incapable of admitting mistakes or considering changes in direction.