Micromanagers don't make good presidents

Micromanagers don't make good presidents
PHOTO: Reuters

The presidential management style of Mr Donald Trump is being described as "obsessive micromanagement" which stems from his mistrust of the bureaucracy, who, he fears, would sabotage or resist his extreme policy agenda.

The result? The White House is making decisions that are "half-baked and chaotic", in an atmosphere that is "disorganised, strife-laden and secretive".

US government analysts, businessmen, and academics are worried about the way the new president is managing the White House.

Mr Trump's executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries was created by a small coterie of advisers, with very little input or review from other agencies of government.

Mr Trump seems to lack the will and the skill to delegate tasks.

He is well-known for his "obsessive" attention to detail, and his mistrust of leaving the job to someone else.

Presidential historians are warning that Mr Trump seems to be following the example of another micromanager, Mr Jimmy Carter.

Reuters has reported that Professor Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, has warned that Mr Trump should avoid the example of Mr Carter, who even studied the White House tennis court schedule in his first months in office.

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Professor Rick Ghere, an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton in Ohio, warned that micromanagers are not successful presidents.

He also said presidents must delegate authority to their Cabinet as a president's job is different from a chief executive officer's.

Mr John D. Gartner, a psychotherapist who teaches at Johns Hopkins University, has made a troubling diagnosis.

He believes Mr Trump has "malignant narcissism". He said the condition is incurable and different from narcissistic personality disorder.

Mr Trump's presidential style comes closest to the late Mr Richard Nixon's, though he lacks the latter's erudition and grasp of world affairs.

There is similarity in at least two areas: mistrust of the bureaucracy and hatred of the media.

Michael Genovese points out in his influential book, The Nixon Presidency: Power and Politics in Turbulent Times, that Mr Nixon was a "bad manager" who did not like the role of manager and delegated it to White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, partly because he resented the bureaucracy and his own Cabinet.

Mr Nixon was deeply suspicious of the bureaucracy and tried to build a counter-bureaucracy within the White House. His relations with the media were terrible.

He said: "The press is the enemy to be hated and beaten."

He blamed the media for his defeat by Mr John F. Kennedy in the presidential election of 1960 because the media had made JFK look better than him.

Mr Trump is taking the same route. He views the State Department, the judiciary, and the press as adversaries.

Many people working in these three pillars of American society consider his policies a betrayal of core American values.

More than 1,000 State Department diplomats have dissented from Mr Trump's travel ban on Muslims, and federal judges have upheld an injunction against the president's executive order.

And, the White House believes the media is its biggest enemy.

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"The media here is the opposition party," Mr Trump's chief strategist, Mr Steve Bannon, has declared.

"They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Mr Trump is the president of the United States."

There are other examples of Mr Trump's untrusting management style.

TORTURE

Neither Defence Secretary James Mattis nor Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo were told about a draft order on torture, nor was the State Department consulted on the executive action on the Keystone pipeline.

Mr Chris Lu, who served in the Obama administration as White House cabinet secretary and deputy secretary of labour, said: "No secretary wants to be blindsided by a White House announcement. This leads to bruised egos, infighting, and leaks. More importantly, it leads to bad policy."

If the president continually keeps his Cabinet out of the loop on major decisions, and if he persists in pushing through controversial decisions without proper in-Cabinet debate, he would undermine their authority and lose their loyalty.


This article was first published on February 17, 2017.
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