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Failed CEO-President Watch

We chronicle the failure of the vaunted MBA management style that was one of the main defining campaign points used in 2000 by Bush to win* the White House.

Steve Pearlstein: There are lots of ways to explain why the Bush administration has made a hash of its Iraq policy. To my mind, however, this is fundamentally a story about management failure and a corporate leadership style that the first MBA president and his crew of former CEOs brought to Washington.

Or think of it this way: The reason the world's only superpower is stuck in the mud in Iraq is the same reason Xerox got into trouble with accounting, why Wall Street analysts and investment bankers didn't blow the whistle on WorldCom and Enron, and why much of the magic has gone out of Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Such generalizations are dangerous. But over the years I've noticed that companies that get into trouble, or lose their edge, have many of the same characteristics at the top: an overemphasis on hierarchy and orderliness; a penchant for secrecy and keeping decisions closely held; an instinct to discount information or dismiss views that don't comport with the company line; a habit of pronouncing rather than engaging intellectually with those outside the inner circle; an unhealthy arrogance and sense of entitlement.

When something goes wrong, the all-too-typical corporate response is to downplay its importance or bury it in bureaucratic processes. And if that doesn't work, the next line of defense is to pin it all on a few "bad apples" and move aggressively to "put the issue behind us," without ever really admitting serious error.