Watch CBSN Live

George W. Bush, MBA.

This is the article, with some minor editing, that didn't really belong in BNET's MBA package.


Harvard's Most Famous MBA
The perceived value of an MBA got a big boost when George W. Bush, holder of Harvard's most famous MBA, was elected President of the United States. In the months after 9/11, the country's first "MBA President" (as USA Today, among others, named him) achieved higher public approval ratings than any modern president. It was difficult not to conclude that at least some of his much-publicized leadership skills resulted from his stint at the Harvard B-School

The business community's romance with Bush's MBA reached its climax when a major business publisher (Wiley) brought out a book entitled The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush: 10 Commonsense Lessons from the Commander-in-Chief. Released right around Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech, the book propelled its authors on a whirlwind of public appearances and media promotions, according to co-author Carolyn B. Thompson. "We were familiar with the popular rumors about the guy, that he was an idiot, that all he's done in business has failed, that he was a big drinker, that he's only successful because he's a privileged boy," she explained, "But when we looked at his life and accomplishments we were convinced that he truly was a leadership genius."

The book has not weathered well. While much of the contents are pretty standard MBA stuff, in retrospect the bromides seem surreal. For example, here are some chapter headings:

  • Bring in the Right People (Part 1)
  • Bring in the Right People (Part 2)
  • Encourage Collaboration: Build Alliances
  • Getting Results: Hold People Accountable
Today you'd be hard pressed to find many pundits claiming that Bush has been following that well-worn business advice. Conservative columnist Bob Novak, for instance, recently wrote that "republican insiders... complain about Bush filling mid-level government vacancies with 'children'" and that "the White House is not a happy place for the people working there." When I asked uber-conservative Pat Buchanan to summarize the conservative movement's view of Bush as a manager, he referred to the President with obvious sarcasm as "The Pride of the Harvard Business School."

Even James W. Ware, the other co-author of The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush, has misgivings. Ware no longer mentions the book on his website, even though the site prominently quotes Richard Nixon. "I have separated myself from Bush's administration," he wrote in response to my inquiry, declining to comment any further.

Perhaps the most telling commentary on Bush's MBA can be found on the used copy of the book that I obtained to research this article. Originally priced at $22.95, the price for a used copy had plummeted to all of sixty five cents, suggesting that there's not much demand in the business world. Even more telling, the copy was culled from a library, which apparently didn't feel the need to keep this particular brand of business wisdom available for its subscribers. The original owner who dumped it? Check out the sticker on the book jacket:


I realize that the above is off topic, so starting Monday we're going to get into a core issue for sales professionals today. I'm going to cut through all the BS and explain exactly what you need to know to sell B2B in the post-Internet age.

Photo courtesy of my scanner.