Leadership: Business Trumps Politics

by Mike Hunter

A global leadership management group, The Korn/Ferry International, polled business executives and found 65 percent felt a business professional would do a better job leading this country than a politician. The survey noted that 43 percent agreed with the statement that “a corporate CEO is better skilled to serve as U.S. President,” while 34 percent disagreed. Of those surveyed, 22 percent believed a CEO and a “traditional political candidate” would be equally skilled to hold that job.

Although the executives strongly suggest that a CEO would make a better president, an overwhelming 74 percent said they would not take the job, leaving 26 percent who would seek the challenge. Executives believe that negotiating and compromise are critical competencies for the position, yet they also said that understanding others and conflict management are necessary and among the hardest for most people to development. When asked about whether a presidential candidate, regardless of party, possesses the competencies to create a bipartisan spirit in Washington, 33 percent of executives felt that “someone with superb negotiating ability would be able to accomplish such a goal.”

Recognizing another reality, a majority 56 percent of executives believe that the task of maintaining voter confidence is more difficult for a U.S. president than maintaining support of shareholders and directors is for a CEO. Making these “mission-critical” skills is a necessity in both posts, but perhaps more critical in a political climate.

“Whether you’re the CEO of a multinational company or the president of the Unites States, the foundational competencies of effective leadership are typically calibrated around the ability to deal with ambiguity, build effective teams and motivate others toward a common vision,” says Ann Dutra, CEO of Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting. “The proven ability to master these mission-critical leadership competencies is often what separates executives who rise to the top of the organization or the political official who gains prominence and stature in our nation’s capital.”

The Korn/Ferry Institute is the research arm of Korn/Ferry International (NYSE: KFY). Results are based on surveys of executives globally registered with the firm’s online Executive Center. The survey was conducted with more than 100 executives from July 24 to August 8, 2012.

Do you believe a corporate CEO is better skilled to be President of the United States than a candidate with a traditional political background (or current presidential candidate)?
Yes 43%
No 34%
Equally skilled 22%

Do you believe any presidential candidate, regardless of party affiliation, possesses the essential skills, such as negotiating and composure, to create a bipartisan spirit again in D.C.?
No one man or woman has such ability 10%
Only someone with superb negotiating ability 33%
Only someone who’s charismatic and charming 12%
Only someone who has political leverage 16%
Congress moves only according to political party interests 30%

Would you want to be president of the United States?
Yes 26%
No 74%

Out of the following, which is harder to achieve?
A U.S. president maintaining the confidence of voters 56%
A CEO maintaining the confidence of shareholders and directors 44%

Negotiating and compromise are prized CEO skills. Given the current political climate, how valuable are these skills to a U.S. president?
Critical 78%
Important 17%
Semi-important 5%
Unimportant 0%

Which of the following skills is the hardest for professionals to develop?
Conflict management 46%
Understanding others 20%
Composure 7%
Priority-setting 4%
Learning on the fly 5%
Motivating others 18%

Source: The Korn/Ferry Institute


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