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Alternative Roles for a Chief Executive, Part 2

This is the second piece of a two-part article. To read part one, or other articles written by this author, see the Related Articles box below.

Tom Bertone

Conservative Democrat/Iron Triangle Model Combination: the Chief Executive as Dedicated Manager and Sometime Defender of the Less Powerful.
The objective of the American Conservative Democratic philosophy is to establish and maintain a society in which power is widely distributed so that the will of the majority prevails but the ways of life of minorities are protected. Accordingly, the heart of government is the legislature, where interest groups negotiate and compromise their differences to produce acceptable public policy. The chief executive is expected to execute faithfully that policy, and a dedicated manager is preferred. The legislature exercises close political control, through the Iron Triangle, to ensure that s/he does.

Because multiple legislative committees define executive operations, administrative systems and procedures are agency specific. This creates a huge management problem, and the chief executive’s primary job is to create government-wide systems and procedures that coordinate the agency-specific systems and procedures. Politically, s/he is to use executive influence to assist less powerful groups so that there are no perennial political losers. S/he also is to oppose both legislative and executive expansion of power and, therefore, is prone to use the veto and to propose few new programs. S/he may work, as resources permit, to improve administrative efficiency, effectiveness, and economy.

Administratively, s/he relies upon political appointments from interest groups which best understand the legislation to be executed. In turn, her/his appointees expect career public servants to be experts in using agency systems and procedures so as to faithfully execute legislative agreements.

An example of the Dedicated Manager chief executive might be Grover Cleveland (or, potentially, Michael Dukakis).

Liberal Democratic/Stewardship Model Combination: the Chief Executive as Strategic Enabler.
A Liberal Democrat values freedom and authentic individualism and abhors a society that turns moral beliefs into law. Individuals must be free to make their own moral choices. As a consequence, human progress is not something that can be mandated by (a group of bright people who control) government. Human progress occurs only as fast as a free people produce it. Nevertheless, human progress can be assisted. The Liberal Democratic chief executive is to provide that assistance by acting as the Strategic Enabler.

Thus, the chief executive has multiple responsibilities: secure human rights so that individuals can pursue progress; encourage a society conducive to progress, by providing opportunities for, e.g., education, travel, and debate; educate the public on great and urgent issues; lead the legislature on urgent issues only, letting the legislature crystallize the evolving public will on all others; and turning legislative policy into effective programs to assist national progress.

Administratively, political appointees are substantive political executives who provide detailed programs that respond to public demand. They are adept at explaining how programs respond to demand so as to ensure accountability and public support. They rely upon career public managers to gather, analyze, and interpret data about public demand, program success, and public reaction.

An example of the chief executive as Strategic Enabler might be Barack Obama.

In conclusion, the role that a career public manager is expected to play is determined by the political grouping of the incumbent administration. Each grouping also has a role that it expects its chief executive to play. Therefore, career public managers can get an indication of what is expected of herself/himself by examining the behavior of the incumbent chief executive and verifying her/his conclusion with her/his superior, preferably a political appointee.

Thomas L. Bertone is retired president, Thomas L. Bertone and Associates (Management Consultants). Email: [email protected]

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About Thomas L. Bertone

DR. THOMAS L. BERTONEDr. Bertone is a retired independent management consultant. He had over thirty-five years experience as a consultant, manager, and professional in public administration at all levels of government. Dr. Bertone had assignments with the executive and legislative branches of government and with a gubernatorial political campaign. In 1983, the Institute of Management Consultants admitted Dr. Bertone as a Certified Management Consultant (CMC); in 1996, the Association of Government Accountants admitted him as a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). In 2000, he was included in Who’s Who in America and, in 2001, Who’s Who in the World. A synopsis of his career follows.• President, Thomas L. Bertone and Associates. • Director of International Consulting, Grant Thornton. • Regional Director of State and Local Government Consulting, Coopers & Lybrand. • Acting Executive Director and Director of Budget Review, Office of Fiscal Affairs, New Jersey Legislature. • Finance and Management Advisor to Gubernatorial Candidate Jay Rockefeller. • Budget Analyst, Department of Fiscal Services, Maryland Legislature. • Project Manager, Booz-Allen & Hamilton. • Budget Examiner, U. S. Bureau of the Budget, Executive Office of the President. • Management Intern, U. S. Army Comptroller. Dr. Bertone received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in Political Theory and Comparative Government from Harvard College (Cambridge, MA). He has a Master of Arts degree from Stanford University (Stanford, CA) in Political Science. He also holds a Doctorate in Public Administration from The George Washington University (Washington, D.C.) with American Political Thought as one of his fields of study. Dr. Bertone has successfully completed the Wharton (Business) School Executive Education Program in Strategic Management.

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