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Scott McKain

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Who Should Run the Government: CEO or Politician?

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scott-mckain-headshot“Elected political leader as manager” is a dated, misplaced notion. Let’s change our thinking about the jobs of those we elect to significant positions.

I never thought Jack Welch was an expert on nuclear power or broadcasting – even though GE did both while he was CEO. Yet, we seemingly want our President to know
everything about every issue. That’s humanly impossible.

“The expectations surrounding presidential performance far outstrip the institutional capacity of Presidents to perform,” said Terry Moe of Stanford University.

The President’s actual role is more like “chairman of the nation” or “chief political officer.” It is to provide leadership by steering us toward consensus on critical issues and making tough decisions on major policy issues.

We’ve reached a point where we actually need two Presidents – better expressed as Chairman and CEO. The Chairman (President of the U.S.) is elected as our “big picture” political leader. He or she then appoints a CEO to be an aggressive, rigorous manager of budgets and performance. Companies separate these positions. Why shouldn’t the government?

Until we become more sensible in our expectations, we’ll have unqualified politicians trying to be executives…business leaders trying to be politicians…and neither delivering the best results for America.

Scott McKain teaches how organizations and individual professionals can create distinction in their marketplace, and deliver the “Ultimate Customer Experience®.” For more informationwww.ScottMcKain.com


randy-pennington-headshotEveryone running for political office is by choice a politician. The candidate who says, “I am not a politician” is simply saying that they are new to the game.

The important question when electing a President is whether to trust the running of the government to someone with no experience working in that environment over someone with at least some experience understanding how it works.

Every President is an amateur managing a group of professionals when it comes to providing leadership for government agencies. That is not unlike successfully running a large company with multiple products and services.

But, “running the government” also involves influencing when you have no authority to mandate compliance; building coalitions among groups with different goals; operating in a state of perpetual scrutiny; and understanding how the process of government works.

It isn’t impossible for the right business CEO to succeed without any prior government experience. It is, however, more difficult unless they have acquired those skills elsewhere.

Republicans hold up Ronald Reagan—an actor and politician—as the standard for great leadership. The Democrats point to Bill Clinton—a career politician. You can’t underestimate the importance of understanding and being competent in how government works.

Randy Pennington helps leaders deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. To find out more, go to www.penningtongroup.com.


larry-winget-headshotBWhen it comes to running the government, I believe that it takes a good combination of business acumen as well as the ability to both understand and use the political machine to get things done. A businessperson who can’t get things done using the political system and only wants to trash the system and do a work around is doomed. A politician who doesn’t understand the basic business principles that a CEO has to master to be successful as well as profitable is also doomed. We either need a politician with business mastery or a businessperson with political mastery. It is going to take a combination of both skill sets to move us forward.

Balancing a budget, spending less than you take in, controlling growth, understanding the competition, defending your establishment against outsiders, pleasing the people who pay the bills and creating value both real and perceived are the role of a good businessperson. But they should also be the top priorities of a person running the government. We need a proactive visionary consensus builder. We don’t need a know-it-all demagogue who believes they are the only one who can have a good idea.

Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development®, is a six-time NYT/WSJ bestselling author, social commentator and appears regularly on many national television news shows. To find out more, go to www.LarryWinget.com.


joe-calloway-headshotRepublican presidential candidate and Governor of Ohio John Kasich recently said, “People have kind of had it with politicians because they don’t think it’s working. I spent a decade out. At some point people want a captain to land the plane. I know when you go to Washington you better understand where the levers are.”

I think that’s a good point. A career politician might not have the “get things done” skills that a good CEO has, but a career business professional doesn’t know “where the levers are” in government.

Candidate Carly Fiorina has said, “I come from a world outside of politics, where track records and accomplishments count.” (Her own track record at Hewlitt-Packard is questionable, at best.)

The bottom line is, as Mark, says, getting a good leader, regardless of their background. I think a good example of the kind of a “hybrid” leadership background can be found in Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. Very successful in business, former Mayor of Chattanooga, now a respected (by both sides of the aisle) US Senator.

We need a combination of vision, inspiration, the skills of communication and collaboration, and the ability to “make the trains run on time.”

A rare combination, indeed.

Joe Calloway helps great companies get even better. www.JoeCalloway.com


mark-sanborn-headshotThe short answer: someone qualified, whether CEO or politician. But what makes someone qualified?

Start by flipping the original question: who should run a company? A politician? That would be nonsensical if that person didn’t also have business leadership skills.

Skill sets aren’t always transferrable. While the principles of leadership don’t change, the application of those principles does. How a leader gets results in a business organization may be similar to government, but it isn’t the same. The systems and processes are different by design.

That isn’t to say that a CEO couldn’t make a great president, but it wouldn’t be exclusively because of his or her business acumen. Many great government leaders have come out of the private sector, but they succeeded by doing a deep dive—or in some instances, a crash course— in how government works.

One thing that is the same in business and government is that an effective leader surrounds himself or herself with talented, capable people. That enables the person at the top to make up for any shortfalls in knowledge or skills.

Who do I want running our government? Someone who truly knows what they’re doing.

Mark Sanborn is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker bestselling author of books including, The Fred Factor. For more information and free resources, visit www.marksanborn.com.

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More Stories By Scott McKain

Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.