Why being the President IS like running a corporation

By Vidya Pradhan

Carly Fiorina just went on record saying that none of the candidates was capable of running a corporation. In her words –

I don't think John McCain could run a major corporation. I don't think Barack Obama could run a major corporation. I don't think Joe Biden could. But it is not the same as being the president or vice president of the United States. It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company, so of course, to run a business, you have to have a lifetime of experience in business, but that's not what Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama or Joe Biden are doing. 

With friends like these…

Apart from the fact that McCain really needs to keep a better handle on his surrogates, I happen to think she is completely wrong, even from her own party's point of view, which is to advocate running the country exactly like a business.

Here is what the CEO of a company( and by extension, the country) does –

  • Has a vision for where the company(the US) is going to be in the long term.
  • Insists on a policies that are beneficial to the company but also fall withing the regulatory framework of the land( in this case the constitution and the laws)
  • Makes sure the company does not go spiralling into debt but wisely manages its money.
  • Hires competent and qualified employees instead of cronies.
  • Keeps harmony among the many egos that typically inhabit a large corporation.
  • Is able to inspire employees to follow a common purpose and work towards a higher goal than their own self-interest.
  • Is able to negotiate mergers and acquisitions with diplomacy instead of a scorched earth policy.
  • Encourages transparency and accountability.
  • Has a succession plan in place in case something happens to him/her.
  • Looks after the shareholder interest.
  • Expects to be judged on performance.
  • At press conferences, answers the questions put to him/her instead of repeating talking points.
  • In times of market panic, keeps a cool head and leads the company to safe harbor.
  • Has a quick and appropriate response to crisis. Is able to make quick course corrections when conditions on the ground change.
  • As a member of a larger community, has a world view of how the company must respond, react and pro-act with respect to its place in the world.

I'm sure more such analogies will occur to readers. ( Send them in, I'll update with credit to your handle).
Unfortunately, since CEOs in the US have stopped acting like the above mentioned ideal, nobody quite recognizes what it is we should be looking for in a leader. Every time someone mentions the term "Executive experience" to justify a decision in the polling booth, I point them to George W. Bush, who surely has the most executive experience at this point. In case anyone didn't notice, his own party kept him out of its convention, treating him like a member of their family that they're ashamed of.

When you go in to vote, think. Which of the two candidates best embodies this ideal of the Chief Executive Officer of your country?

UPDATE: On Constitution day, I found this article that lays out what exactly the President does, according to the constitution of the USA.( formatted, but not reworded from that great document itself)

  • Shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States;
  • He may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and
  • He shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.
  • He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and
  • He shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.
  • The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;
  • He may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper;
  • He shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers;
  • He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and
  • Shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Amazing how well it ties up with the CEO's duties.

1 thought on “Why being the President IS like running a corporation

  1. Aarti


    I agree with you completely. What you are stating are the traits that a leader should have. I find it interesting that both in the business world and in politics we are seeing that “.. to inspire employees to follow a common purpose and work towards a higher goal than their own self-interest.” is being interpreted by leaders as “having a common purpose and goal -their own self interest”.



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