The Great Delegator Meets an MBA President

When it comes to managing and motivating people, I’m a fan of the Reagan model. In fact, some have called Reagan, “The Great Delegator.”

Recently, I was teaching this principle (as it relates to motivating campaign volunteers) and a student asked me whether or not Bush’s problems were caused by his following my theory (I’m not sure if this was an attempt to make me look bad, or a legitimate question).

… My answer was that Reagan’s model of delegating authority probably did allow for Iran/Contra to happen—but it also won the Cold War. In short, there are trade-off’s involved.

I also pointed out that delegation assumes you are giving authority to smart and good people. Reagan’s first term (with Baker, Meese, and Deaver) did not involve an Iran/Contra scandal. It was only when these three left his side that problems arose.

This article in Slate appears to address the question. I thought I would share it with you:

Bush’s stated management model—appointing good people, delegating authority to them, and holding them accountable for results—reflects some common-sense notions he picked up at Harvard Business School. His actual management practice, however, has not followed that model. In practice, Bush tends to appoint mediocre people he trusts to be loyal, delegates hardly any decision-making power to anyone beyond a few top aides, and seldom holds anyone accountable. These failures are related. If you don’t give people real authority, you can’t reasonably hold them responsible for what follows. What has grown up around the president as a result is not an effective political machine, but a stultifying imperial court, a hackocracy dominated by sycophants, cronies, and yes men.