Presidency a big job for one person

London Business School founder and Claremont Graduate University's Drucker School of Business Professor, Charles Handy.

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: It might be a silly question: Which candidate would you prefer to have a beer with?

Well, in Wisconsin -- where suds are king -- that proposition takes on an entirely different meaning.

Wisconsin is in the spotlight today. Primary voters in the Badger State take to the polls.

Management guru Charles Handy is stateside for a couple of months. As a visitor, he has a unique perspective of our election.


Charles Handy: This is a wonderful month for a visitor like myself to be in America. I have the opportunity to observe your democracy at its brilliant best.

Yes, we, on the outside, have always thought that your presidential election dramas were far too drawn-out and excessively expensive, but this time around it all seems justified. The characters in the unfolding drama could have been any casting director's dream. Between them, the candidates represent almost every aspect of American life. We watch with fascination, envy and admiration.

But, dare I say it, you have a small problem. The founding fathers have required you to elect a President who has to be both head of state and prime minister, the chairman and the chief executive. They are very different roles.

The chairman, be it of a country or a company, has to create the narrative and tell the story. He must represent the people and the country to the world outside. He must also embody the administration to the people. The chief executive has to deliver an efficient administration. It is the old leader/manager dilemma. Few people can do both well.

In fact, the British code of corporate governance frowns sternly on any attempt to combine the two roles in one person. It does this not only because it is difficult, but because to give so much power to one individual is risky.

Your long list of Presidents conveys quite clearly which executive was best at which part of the job. I can't help but wonder whether those voting in these primaries look for an articulate and visionary chairman or a capable chief executive. To expect two for the price of one is, perhaps, too much to hope for -- whether for an organization or a sovereign nation.


Ryssdal: Charles Handy is a visiting scholar at the Drucker School of Management and the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University.

His latest book is called Myself and Other More Important Matters.

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