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Managerial Styles

Few of our nations’ chief executives could match Herbert Hoover’s executive competence, intellect or energy. With a handful of assistants, he put together a series of relief operations that saved millions of lives during and after World War I. He was familiar with Latin and proficient in the principles of mining and metallurgy. Yet his Presidency was a failure. Poor judgment (high tariffs and taxes) did him in.

Franklin Roosevelt’s managerial style was the antithesis of Hoover’s. He often put off making decisions. He didn’t respect lines of authority. He would deliberately give different aides similar assignments. He incessantly played members of his official family against one another. Internal battles were constant and bitter. FDR was devious. He was never confrontational, using indirect methods to get this way. You rarely learned where you stood by having a face-to-face meeting; the President was usually congenial and unspecific.

Many thought FDR’s methods were inefficient and chaotic, but most political scientists have concluded there was method in his seeming madness. The chaos enable him to prevent anyone from accumulating too much power or blocking him from information. He was incontestably the master of his government and the dominant figure of 20th-century American politics.

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