#27 Bush & Leadership & Management

by Steven Cerri on January 30, 2007

#27-1-30-07:  Bush & Leadership & Management

Bush & Leadership & Technology

“What can we learn from President Bush about Leadership and Management?”

Good morning!

Everywhere around us there are good and bad examples of management and leadership. In fact, a perfect example of the distinction between management and leadership is currently being represented by our government, that is, the government of the United States.

Now without getting into whether I’m for or against the Iraqi war, for or against the “surge” of troops, for or against pulling out, or for or against the resolutions currently working their way through congress, I will talk about the leadership and management of the Iraqi “situation”.

So as we look at the Iraqi “situation” what does it tell us about management and leadership?

First and foremost, lets talk about what the general consensus is about George Bush’s leadership. Most people would say that Bush is displaying “leadership” (whether they agree with his policies or not) because he is picking a direction and he is pointing the nation in that direction. That direction may not be a consensus direction, but as the leader of the United State, as the Commander In Chief, his responsibility, his duty, is to select a direction and point the county in that direction. By most accounts that’s leadership and I would agree (not necessarily with the direction, but with the concept of leadership).

As the old song line goes, “Is that all there is”? Is the leadership being displayed by Bush and the resulting situation in Iraq the way it is because Bush is just a terrible leader, or is it because he is a good leader in a terrible situation, or is he a terrible leader in a terrible situation.

My answer is that it’s not so simple, even though for some it might seem a simple answer. For some people, leadership and management are simple concepts. The leader sets direction and says what is to be done, and the manager implements, and does what the leader wants done. To some, the perfect example is George Bush and his administration. Bush set the direction as the leader; invade Iraq. He then turned it over to his “managers”, Rumsfeld and others on his staff, to implement. That’s how it goes for some. The leader decides on the direction and hands off the implementation to managers. Bush hands the goal of Iraq to his managers, Rumsfeld and the rest of the Bush team. In general, this is the accepted definition of leadership and management.

I don’t think so! That my friends is not the way it works and I’ve seen it not work over and over and over. So let me tell you how the world really works. Let me tell you a better definition of leadership and management.

Think of it this way. Management and Leadership are like two sides of a coin. You can’t have one without the other (another song line). Management and Leadership go hand-in-hand. I have seen so many leaders who have failed because they did not manage. I have seen fantastic leaders and they were fantastic because they were also managers. You can’t be a successful leader without being a good manager. You can, however, be a great manager, without being a leader.

The leader who doesn’t manage is doomed to failure as a leader! However, often people think that the leader “out-grows” the need to be a manager and somehow the manger must grow into being a leader. The fact of the matter is that to be a successful leader, the leader must manage as well.

There you have it. Management is the implementation of goals and the achievement of desired outcomes. Leadership is the pointing toward the desired outcome. The manager can just be a manager with the desired outcome handed off to him or her by the leader. However, the leader must create the desired outcome. But, the successful leader must also be a manager or they will end up with the mess, like the mess that was produced by Rumsfeld who is a terrible manager.

You see this is President Bush’s downfall. He considers himself too much a leader and not enough a manager. In Bush’s case, a better approach would have been to set the direction (leadership), whatever that direction, and then manage the managers who have been selected to implement the tasks. It’s quite clear this is why Bush had such a dismal career as a businessman. He thinks that his role is that of the “decider”. But in reality, to be successful, a decider needs also to be a manager. A better approach would have been to manage Rumsfeld, Rice, and Cheny, and others throughout the implementation process so that the outcome could and would be achieved; the unified outcome that Bush wanted, not the disjointed outcomes that each of his managers wanted.

If he had understood that in order to be a successful leader one must be a manager as well, he would have managed his Secretary of Defense much more closely. It is absolutely critical for the successful leader to know how to manage and to be willing to manage. Leadership and Management go together and for the leader to separate them is to court disaster. As is evident in the Bush handling of the Iraqi “situation”.


One more point. I’m writing all this based on what I read and see in the various news sources that I use. What comes across from those new sources is that Bush has kept a very hands-off approach to his staff and therefore, has not managed them closely. If this perception is incorrect, if President Bush actually manages closely his staff and he doesn’t let the news media know it, then his staff is indeed implementing his direction… and… once again, need I say more.

Be well

Steven Cerri

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