Prior to the 2016 presidential election, a friend told me he was backing Donald Trump because, “It was time to run the country like a business and drain the bureaucratic swamp in Washington.” When Trump left, the swamp remained, and if the way business leaders are actually selected had been applied, he wouldn’t have been there in the first place.
Political leaders are publicly chosen by the subjective whims of voters, not the private deliberations of corporate directors. Nonetheless, many others share my friend’s preference, and it’s beneficial for all voters to understand the way business executives are really picked. Using that criteria, here’s a look at some potential candidates for U.S. president and North Carolina governor.
The first result is that neither Biden nor Trump would be selected.
Biden would be judged too old, too grounded in the past and too susceptible to mental and physical health issues. Since succession planning is a primary concern of corporate directors, a potential second term for him would be perceived as blocking the success and development of a younger successor.
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Moral, ethica and legal entanglements are definite barriers to the selection of business leaders in public corporations. Any executive search firm, selection committee or board of directors would immediately reject Trump. His myriad legal difficulties, chaotic ready-fire-aim past-term performance, inability to distinguish fantasy from reality and preoccupation with only building his personal brand would rule him out.
Corporations often retain executive search firms, sometimes pejoratively labeled “headhunters,” to recruit, pre-qualify and recommend candidates. Once the apparent presidential contenders were eliminated, they’d review the remaining choices. Here is a prediction of their analysis of the top two remaining Republican candidates and their recommendation.
Based on the values of their customers and employees, most corporate leaders favor thoughtful, reflective analysis and continue to honor diversity. Ron DeSantis’ “anti-woke” mania and dogmatic, gangster-reminiscent, tough-guy persona would torpedo him.
Mike Pence, although respected for standing up to Trump, would be eliminated because of his lack of strong leadership skills, charisma deficit and narrow intellectual fundamentalism.
The candidate a professional search firm would recommend would be Nikki Haley. A former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, twice-elected governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, she has the right blend of decisiveness, conservative orientation, and business and leadership experience.
On the Democratic side, because of her low-key vice presidential exposure and lukewarm reputation, Kamala Harris would be eliminated. Pete Buttigieg rings many bells but search firms are unflinchingly pragmatic and, sadly, many voters, particularly potential converts from the right, are not yet ready for a gay president and he’d be rejected.
The recommended candidate would be Amy Klobuchar. Former partner in two law firms and county attorney in Minnesota’s most populous county, she has a proven ability to win contentious elections. Her pragmatic, problem-solving style and ability to cope with the far-left contingent of her party and the far-right branch of Republicans, make her the prime choice in a business-oriented Democratic selection process.
Here in North Carolina, our gubernatorial election appears headed for a major value clash between Attorney General Josh Stein, a protégé of current Gov. Roy Cooper, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a rabid Trump disciple. A selection process for either party that was based on corporate values would select Stein and reject Robinson.
Stein would be an easy choice. He’s highly educated — Harvard law and Kennedy School of Government — efficient, experienced and successful in pursuing actions congruent with Democratic values.
Robinson would be summarily rejected because of his history of antisemitic, homophobic and misogynistic statements and lack of any credible business leadership experience.
Based on his experience and business education — undergraduate and master’s degrees in accounting and CPA certification — Dale Folwell, North Carolina state treasurer, would be the Republican selection.
Although the odds of the presidential and gubernatorial candidates predicted in this corporate based selection process actually appearing on a ballot are low, it provides a framework for the responsible voter to analyze their choices through a different set of lenses.
And two exceptionally talented women without any apparent skeletons in their closets running for U.S. president are certainly something to think about.