Does Business prepare one to be President?

Mr. Trump is not the first candidate to point to his business background as a key qualification to become President of the U.S.  George W. Bush also stood on his  business background.  Right at the top let me say that business can be as good a background of experience for a President as many other fields.  There are, however, two qualifications that must be made.

First, “business” is an accordion word.  There are many and diverse activities over which the word “business” can be stretched.  It can extend to being a real estate developer or owning a baseball club.  From my perspective the key question to ask of any business man seeking the Presidency is: “How much management experience have you had?  How many resources did you both acquire and manage?  How many people did you supervise?  What processes were required to produce the service or goods for which you agency was responsible, including skyscrapers and casinos?  How successful were you?  How did you relate to all of the people that were in some way involved in your enterprise?  How did people feel that you affected along the way in your career? What were your contributions to the community both through and beyond your career?

Trump’s daughter, when introducing him on the last night of the convention, spoke to some of these things.  But Trump himself has done little but claim that he has been successful, and the primary evidence that he has presented is that he got very, very rich. If one has had any acquaintance with Peter Drucker, then it is clear that there is a lot more to being a successful manager than getting rich.  If Trump himself does not elaborate on what his experience has done for him in preparing him to be President, the media should take this upon themselves.  The press, especially,  USA TODAY, has done this.  Sadly, what has been uncovered are some pretty dark dealings.  Cable TV should begin to join the exploration of Trump’s business career.

The second qualification of the statement that business can be a good background for becoming President is that business by itself is not politics.  Within most managerial structures there are elements of authority that increase as one moves up the management ladder.  Trump sat at the top.  He knows what it is to have authority.  But does he know what it is to be political.  You can’t order the American people to behave as you wish them to.  You can not tell the Senate, the House, or the judiciary what they must do.  Politics requires some measures of self-effacement, a considerable amount of other directedness, and quite a lot of compromise, not only of take, but also, of give.  To this point, there has been little evidence not only of Mr. Trump’s political prowess, but of any desire on his part to function as a politician.  In fact in his acceptance address all that he had to say about politicians was a series of negative accusations against them.

So a career in business can prepare one to become President.  But in Mr. Trump’s case, it is not at all evident that his career has prepared him for this very overwhelming task.





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