Sizing Up Two Candidates as CEOs Consultants See Both Strengths and Weaknesses in the Bush and Clinton Management Styles

Article excerpt

WOULD you rather hire George Bush or Bill Clinton to run your company?

The Monitor asked this question of several leading consultants and authors on corporate leadership and management.

It is not the same question, necessarily, as which of those two candidates is better suited to preside over the United States government. But it offers some insight into the executive styles of the two top contenders. {Candidate Ross Perot is assessed as a chief executive officer (CEO) in the article at left.}

Warren Bennis, management consultant, professor of business at the University of Southern California, and author most recently of "On Becoming a Leader"

Dr. Bennis would choose Bill Clinton to run his company "hands down."

One of the key questions for evaluating executives, he says, is the quality of the people with whom they surround themselves. Bennis looks at Vice President Dan Quayle, Bush's first major personnel choice, and doubts Bush's judgment.

"There are three things that all people want from their leaders," Bennis says, "whether it's a CEO, president, or basketball coach: direction, trust, and hope."

His impression is that Mr. Bush is weak in all three areas, while Mr. Clinton has some strengths.

Direction: Bush is "all radar and no gyroscope," Bennis says, meaning that he conveys little sense of direction.

Clinton has a "pudgy finger," he says, meaning that the direction he conveys is scattered and diffuse and that it is not always clear what he stands for.

"But at least {Clinton} has respect for the idea of vision."

Trust: Both candidates are very weak on the trust issue, Bennis says. In Bush's case, it is because of his broken no-new-taxes pledge; in Clinton's, it is because of his evolving account of his Vietnam-era encounters with the draft and charges of marital infidelity.

Hope: Bennis interviewed 150 top leaders for a recent study and found one attribute they all shared. They all were "purveyors of hope."

In politics, Ronald Reagan's great strength was what Bennis calls "an almost unwarranted optimism."

"Clinton has some of that," he says. But Bush often sounds instead as though he is "whining, complaining, and blaming."

Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," chairman of the Covey Leadership Center, and leadership consultant

Dr. Covey would probably hire George Bush, he says, "because I have more faith in his character."

He adds that he believes both candidates would be very strong leaders.

But "character is more foundational and important than competence," he says, and "as a person, I just feel more comfortable that George Bush is a man of integrity."

He cites both the solid judgment Bush has accrued through years of service and how he hewed to his course during the Gulf war. …