Who will be the next CEO of America Inc?

2008

With the U.S. staring into the pit of a recession, American chief executives say it is imperative the country has a new president in their own image, in effect a CEO for America Inc.

While the country's leading captains of industry want someone with vision certainly, with economic storm clouds getting darker by the day they are more concerned with putting a leader into the White House who acts and thinks like a CEO.

The poll of nearly 600 American chief executives, presidents, managing directors and managing partners by consultancy Development Dimensions has concluded that the new president needs to someone who has the confidence to build and manage a strong team around them.

He or she will also need to have the skills to make things happen and the courage to push through change against the odds.

Asked whether the next U.S. president should be more like the CEO of a major corporation, the answer was a resounding "yes", said DDI, with nearly two-thirds wanting the U.S. to be run more like a business.

Nearly nine out of 10 also felt the next president needed to have the same skills as corporate CEOs if he or she were to be a truly effective leader. "This is the greatest leadership job in the world," said Rich Wellins, senior vice-president of DDI.

"CEOs understand what is required of a leader, and they're going to look for these traits in a candidate when they're casting their votes," he added.

When asked to identify the key attributes of any future CEO of America Inc, more than half rated the "courage to make major changes".

Slightly fewer, at 49 per cent, argued that the next president needed "the ability to make things happen".

And just under a third pointed to the need to have the skills to develop a strong leadership team.

"In essence, CEOs are looking for change. They are fed up with the status quo. And they want a president who can 'execute' and build a strong top team." Wellins said.

"Sounds like what it takes to run a great business, doesn't it?" he added.

At the bottom of the list, the CEOs rated entrepreneurship, "executive presence" and learning orientation as the least important traits.

But as important as they considered leadership to be for high office, the executives nevertheless said they would still vote on candidates' positions on political issues over and above their leadership traits and abilities.

And they were less concerned about whether the eventual winner was a Democrat or Republican. The CEOs rated raw leadership far higher than party affiliation or previous political experience, which were considered far less deciding factors.

"Running the country is similar to running a large company," one CEO told the researchers.

"You need vision, a budget to complete the task and the right people to make it happen," he added.

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