Bush is the very model of a modern MBA president. He builds his approach to the presidency on teamwork, especially in his West Wing staff. He builds a clear strategy and a business plan for implementing it. Unlike Bill Clinton, he has remained focused on a small agenda. He keeps his message sharp and focused. At a visit to the Pentagon less than a week after September 11, he told reporters, “I want justice,” and that meant tracking down Osama bin Laden. “And there’s a poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’”
Few presidents have been that blunt. Bush insists on tough discipline among his staffers, with a tightly controlled flow of information in and out. Press secretary Ari Fleischer even refused to disclose what the First Family ate at their first presidential Thanksgiving dinner (although word later leaked out that they dined on turkey, green beans, sweet potato puree, and pumpkin pie). The contrast with Bill Clinton, whose staff was prone to leak information, could scarcely have been sharper.
Of course, all presidents—indeed, all leaders—develop their own distinctive styles. Clinton relished the details, while Bush celebrates the MBWA (management by walking around) approach. Some, like Clinton, like to dive into paper and aren’t happy without their hands in details, while others, like Bush, focus on the big decisions and delegate to subordinates the job of carrying them out. Some are morning people, while others are night owls. But unlike all managers, style is more significant in the White House, for reasons we’ll go into below.