Ike had Nixon; George W. Bush has Rumsfeld; every ball club has the manager of the moment. You have to get someone who can make the tough, mean, unpopular decisions–and can take the fall when they get too tough, mean, and unpopular. You are the peerless leader. You couldn’t really know what a meanie old Frogface is or you wouldn’t let him treat people that way. Of course you know. That’s why you hired him. If you’re out there on a shoeshine and a smile, serving on community boards, making new business presentations, being quoted in the paper on the future of the widget industry, you don’t want to be known around town as the guy who lays off employees at Christmas, dislikes labor unions, and shortens the coffee breaks. Your public performance won’t fly if you’re the one who has to crack the whip at home.
How do you run a business? You understand the strengths and weaknesses of the people you’re dealing with and exploit them–in the best sense of the word–to build strong personal loyalties and to make sure everyone plays his or her proper role. Even though that sounds like a bad B-school text, doesn’t it make a little more sense?