Would a CEO Make a Good President?

In an online column Chief Executive asked why CEOs are largely underrepresented from the ranks of political leaders, particularly those seeking the presidency (Mitt Romney notwithstanding).

I agree that most CEOs would not make very good presidents. You point to one very important reason: Most CEOs are used to having their instructions followed where in the political arena, they could easily be undone. The games are fundamentally different. Not only are the rules of the game different but so are the fundamental leadership skills.

We know in business that different leadership skills are required for companies in different life cycles. For example, a great turn around manager rarely makes a great growth executive. A start-up entrepreneur often is replaced by a professional CEO once the company reaches a certain stage of growth. Why would we expect that a great CEO can be a great political leader if a great CEO in one environment will be a lousy CEO in another?

And to make the point from another angle, consider why there are very few CEOs who take over the reins of leading academic institutions. Different games require different skill sets.

Norman Wolfe
Quantum Leaders
Irvine, Calif.

Do CEOs make good presidents? No. They are “temperamentally unsuited.” That dispensed with, I must have a bit of fun with you and Steve Forbes on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. When I was a kid in the ’50s, I recall reading about three great mysteries:

1. Why did Queen Victoria have so many hemophiliacs among her descendents? I remember one article that theorized a hit on her ovaries from a cosmic ray; I don’t think it was tongue-in-cheek. Cosmic ray?! She was married to her first cousin!

2. What happened to Hitler? Is he alive in South America? I have no idea how the accounts of those in the Bunker took so long to come out in this country, nor why it was ever a mystery. It isn’t anymore.

3. What caused the Great Depression? The Smoot-Hawley Tariff has been tediously recited by generations of clueless teachers. A few years ago, I read an article citing statistics on the money supply during the period beginning with the stock market crash of 1929. The author argued that the stock market crash, in and of itself, wasn’t that damaging. But it set in motion a series of events that decimated the money supply, and that caused the Depression. I found that argument more compelling than the *&^%*^ Smoot-Hawley Tariff.

Jeff Wick
Wick Building Systems
Mazomanie, Wisc.

It’s About Customers

I could not agree more with Bob Donnelly’s column on CRM (CE Online, October/November 2007). I have been fortunate enough to have had three wonderful firsthand experiences with customers laying out their problems. Two were ignored by the company I worked for; one we listened to and built a dominating business. Once one gets in tune with the customers, it is amazing how clear they are in telling you where they want you to go (product-wise). There is a close corollary for start-ups, which is that one must accept that everything will change as one learns more about customer needs; however, one better be in the game.

Dave Powell
Austin, Tex.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events