11 Qualities Our Next President Must Have The country's divisions can be fixed, provided the next president brings some serious leadership[ chops to the table.

By Steve Tobak

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


American society is more divided and Washington more dysfunctional than I've ever seen it. And that says a lot. I've been around a long, long time.

If you're wondering how we got here, it's simple, really. According to Gallup, Barack Obama has been the most polarizing president in modern history, with George W. Bush a close second. Now you know why our federal government is so screwed up. We've had lousy leadership at the top for a long, long time.

America's preference for political outsiders in the current GOP field – Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina – is clearly a backlash against that. And while I don't necessarily agree that we must have someone from the private sector to unite us and solve our many problems, there are qualities that successful executives and business leaders usually possess that would greatly benefit our next president ... and our nation.

Serious leadership chops

I've seen companies pulled in different directions by multiple political factions and silo behavior. Not only is it not a pretty sight, it inevitably leads to disaster. Great business leaders know how to bring other leaders together and motivate them to accomplish great things. That's simply what they do.

Related: Hubris Kills Businesses. Humility Saves Them.

Serious management chops

The federal government just keeps getting bigger and more bloated all the time. That's a sign of serious mismanagement by folks who are clueless about business and finance. CEOs are in the business of growing revenues and profits. To do that, they have to balance budgets and have strong balance sheets. We absolutely need that mindset in D.C.


Goal- and achievement-oriented

Think of everything that's broken in America: the tax code, immigration system, entitlement spending, national debt, healthcare, education system, foreign policy … I can go on, but you get the point. Top executives set aggressive goals and achieve them. That's what they live for. And that's what we need.

Real life experience ... outside of politics

Life inside the Beltway is not real life. Having nearly unlimited amounts of other people's money to spend is utopia. Real business and real life are not like that. That's why politicians are out of touch with the American people.

Advocate for meritocracy, not bureaucracy

The federal government represents the most powerful bureaucracy on earth, and you know what they say about absolute power, don't you? That's right, it corrupts absolutely. And that leads to cronyism, unethical behavior, unholy alliances with lobbyists and a host of organizational dysfunctions. Business meritocracies don't operate that way.

Master negotiator

I can't say that I think The Donald would make a great president, but I do think he'd be the most successful negotiator-in-chief we've ever had. Not only is America the world's benefactor and police force, we're broke. We can't afford to keep giving away what we don't have. Nor can we afford to let other nations walk all over us.

Related: How to Take Control of Your Career … Now!

Plain spoken and direct

The notion of choosing words so as not to offend others may sound relatively benign, but it's not. It's gone way too far. Political correctness is causing more of our problems than we realize. Dr. Carson may be a soft-spoken and eloquent communicator, but he's a powerful advocate of plain speech – meaning we should be direct, call things what they are, and never limit our free speech under any circumstances. Period.

Competitive spirit and driven to win

It's a competitive world. The days of America as the de facto world leader are over. If we want to continue to lead in business, technology, innovation, productivity, and defense, we're going to have to compete for it. We now have to fight and win on a global scale to maintain our way of life. That's a way of life for business leaders.

In it for the long term

One of the big problems in government is that politicians are incentivized to sell and execute on their agenda during their term to more or less reward those who voted for them and their causes. That's short-term thinking. Companies that do well over the long haul manage for long-term stakeholder value, not short-term metrics.


Makes the right calls

Success in business is all about taking the right risks, making the right decisions, and then executing. That's business in a nutshell. If they don't get those three things right, business leaders are not successful. Funny thing is, the same is true of world leaders, as well.

Holds himself and others accountable

In recent years we've seen some pretty ugly behavior among U.S. presidents and CEOs alike. Lots of finger-pointing and blame-gaming. Frankly, it's embarrassing, but more importantly, it's dysfunctional. Leaders are paid the big bucks, not just to take on great responsibility and own it, but also to make sure everyone else does the same.

More than anything, a great leader is someone who feels so passionately, so strongly about something that he not only lives for it, he'll put his life on the line to see it through. It's that sort of passion and personal accountability that inspires others to follow. That's the mark of a great leader. That's the kind of leadership we had in the early days of this great nation. And that's what we so desperately need again.

Related: Want to Succeed? Stop Trying to Be Happy All the Time

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

Tech CEO, 26, Found Dead in Suspected Murder

Pava LaPere founded EcoMap Technologies in December 2018.

Business News

This Founder Walked-On to a Top College Basketball Team in the '90s. Today, He and Drew Brees Are Bringing the 'Walk-On Mentality' to Franchising.

Brandon Landry was so determined to play college basketball that he walked-on — tried out with no scholarship and made the team — at a major program. He's brought that same determination to the franchise business with Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux.

Business News

Sorry, Point-Lovers—Buying With a Credit Card Can Be Costly For Small Businesses

"Swipe fees" — charges imposed on merchants for processing card payments — can add up for small businesses, with some saying it's their third largest expense.