The United States is starting its fifth year now without a chief executive officer. In those five years a number of characters have strolled the White House corridors. We have had a “Campaigner-in-Chief“. We have had a “Speech Maker-in-Chief“. What we have not had is a person that will pick up the reins of government and govern as a true President for all of the citizens of our country.
What does a Chief Executive Officer do? What is his job description? First of all things that a good chief officer does is to set goals. He sets goals for his company, for his department heads, and for himself. The next task in line is to set a budget in place. The goals come first, because if you don’t know where you are going, you can’t estimate the cost of getting there.
A good CEO is a generalist. He knows and understands business and the overall operations and methods of the company in his charge. His department heads are specialists. They, along with the managers that they employ work on the details. Their knowledge of the departments that they control is wider and deeper than the is required of a CEO. They are responsible for a detailed plan and a detailed budget to accomplish the goals set forth by the CEO.
It is then, the CEO’s responsibility to understand the planning and budgets presented to him by his underlings. He must then approve or reject those plans. If he rejects a plan it is his obligation to sit with his management team and rework it until everyone is satisfied that the plan will be successful.
Does that sound like anything that has been going on in Washington for the past four years? It certainly doesn’t to me. I think back to previous Presidents. They were seldom seen. When they were seen on TV, as President, it was for something important. When they were seen on TV, as a candidate, it was to make a political speech. They all seemed to understand the difference.
That, of course, is not to say every speech made by a President was the new “Gettysburg Address”. A couple of George W. Bush speeches and a couple of Bill Clinton speeches come to mind. But to cut it short, I think the American people have had quite enough of the President as a celebrity school of management.
Going back to the budget. A competent CEO knows that a budget is the core around which the company succeeds or fails. It must be based on need, an honest evaluation of available funding, and targets that are reasonable and within reach. That, by the way, doesn’t mean the target should be easy. They should push efforts to the maximum. Ultimately, staffing, project funding, and needs of the physical plant depend on that document.
Guess what we have not had in our government for the past four years. If you guessed a budget, you are a winner. We are in the equivalent of a sailboat at sea without a rudder or a compass. We have nothing to steer by and know not where we want to head. Our country is being managed by guess and by golly.
Learning to be a CEO is a long process, even if you start out with an MBA. It takes brains. It takes guts. It takes the ability to keep ten mental balls in the air at all time and never drop one. It takes years of experience in business operations. It also depends on having the good sense and strength of character to have people around you that are willing to disagree. If everyone around you tells you that you are a genius, you may start to believe them. That is the beginning of the end. A good CEO need people that will hold his feet to the fire and prove his mettle. A great CEO will face these challenges and be proven right.