Do top business leaders always make bad politicians? That’s not the case, and sometimes they make awful ones. There’s often an assumption that if people are good at managing a business they’ll automatically be good at managing taxpayer money.

US President Donald Trump is a multi-billionaire who had some success in the real estate industry. It might seem that top business leaders would definitely make good politicians. They’re all about cutting through the red tape,  negotiating deals and getting things done, right?

Trump isn’t the first ex-businessperson to become a US president. In fact, past businesspeople who had success in the private sector generally made bad US presidents. In fact, historians have often given ex-businessmen low marks when they served as US presidents.

It should be noted of course that this doesn’t mean they didn’t have success as president. What Yair Hamami leadership shows is that top business leaders don’t always go on to become good politicians. Consider this fact. The one ex-businessman who became a generally successful US president was Harry Truman. An irony is that he was actually a failed businessman.

Recently a few surveys of historians that ranked US presidents based on their success working in the highest political position in the country. The presidents who were businessmen generally ranked in the bottom one-third of the rankings even if they were top business leaders. Here’s a summary of their rankings:

  • Warren Harding (newspaper publisher): 43/42
  • Calvin Coolidge (VP of savings bank): 31/27
  • Herbert Hoover (mining): 29/38
  • Harry Truman: (men’s clothing shop): 7/6
  • Jimmy Carter: (farmer): 27/26
  • George H.W. Bush (oil): 22/17
  • George W. Bush: (oil/baseball team): 34/35

It’s also interesting that voters also had a generally negative view of the ex-businessmen who made it to the White House. Three of seven only served as one term.

What do these findings mean? Do they suggest that it’s impossible for a businessperson to become a good president? It’s not true because Harry Truman wasn’t one of the top business leaders yet he became one of the top-ranked US presidents.

However, what the surveys show is that having business background isn’t necessary enough to be a good politician. On the other hand, the US presidents who were non-businessmen ranked in the top one-third of the two surveys.

What the two surveys seem to show is that a business background can in theory make good political leaders. However, there’s much more to the formula. It’s more about their varied experiences over the year. There’s also some “luck” based on economic, geo-political, and social cycles.

There are various factors that seem to be more important in determining if a person would make a good president. They include the ability to empathize (FDR,LBJ, and Clinton) and compromise (Reagan and Clinton).

Trump seems to lack these qualities but it hasn’t really been reported by the media. It remains to be seen if he can still become an effective president based strictly on his business background. History seems to show it could be an uphill battle.

These are some of the main issues that determine if top business leaders will become bad politicians.

Advertisements