30 Issues: Management Styles and Decision Making

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and co-editor of Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, looks at how presidents' management styles say about their effectiveness as leaders.

David Hawkings, managing editor of CQ Weekly, discusses McCain's management style, and David Mendell, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune and author of Obama: From Promise to Power, talks about Barack Obama's management style.

Lisa Chamberlain, author of Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction, looks at the generational differences between Barack Obama and John McCain.


Lisa Chamberlain, David Hawkings, David Mendell and Julian Zelizer

Comments [35]


As many prominent experts have noted, Obama is a member of Generation Jones–born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and GenXers.

Here is a column by Clarence Page about GenJones in last week’s Chicago Tribune:,0,2775732.column

And this new 5 minute GenJones video features many top pundits (including David Brooks, Clarence Page, Dick Morris, Juan Williams, Karen Tumulty, Howard Wolfson, Michael Barone, etc.) specifically talking about Obama (and Palin’s) membership in Generation Jones, as well as the surprisingly big role that GenJones is now playing in this election:

Oct. 29 2008 07:25 AM
Evan from New York, NY

I've always thought the label "boomer" was kind of a misnomer - how do you lump someone eligible for the draft before the Gulf of Tonkin with someone too young to vote until 1984? To me, a Generation Xer born in 1968 (or, to use Bret Easton Ellis' term, "Atari Generation"), I always thought the term "boomer" should be reserved for 1946-1956 births.

Oct. 28 2008 12:03 PM
Michael Broder from Brooklyn, NY

I don't think Obama is "post boomer," regardless of what he says. I think he is distinctly "Late Boomer," a sort of lost generation between the hard-core boomers born in the 40s and 50s and the GenXers who were born later in the 60s. We are a generation who were too young for Howdy Doody, but just a bit too old for Sesame Street...which makes all the difference in your world view!

Oct. 28 2008 11:58 AM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

"silent generation"??. emblematized by such quietists and conformists as bob dylan, muhammad ali, etc., etc.  think you need to rethink this rubric?

Oct. 28 2008 11:58 AM
Catherine from rockville centre

Hi Brian-

I guess these things are somewhat fluid, but I'm a bit younger than Obama, and I consider myself the last of the Boomer generation-- which I've always heard is considered 1946 to 1964. I agree that by the time we graduated, it was Michael Jackson, but I grew up with the Beatles and singing "If I had a hammer" with the kids in the neighborhood, whom I greeted with a peace sign and saying, "Peace." I didn't use a computer until a couple of years into college and I thought it was much more difficult than my typewriter.

Oct. 28 2008 11:57 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

Someone should note that gen X was first Billy Idol's band. It's that stupid an idea:

Oct. 28 2008 11:57 AM
Elaine from Long Beach, NY

I am hearing Lisa Chamberlain comment's and I was under the impression that baby boomers are those born up until 1964 - please clarify.

Oct. 28 2008 11:55 AM
Jonny Sender from brooklyn

Is "Maverick-y" a word?? Or, a Tina Fey-ism?

Oct. 28 2008 11:55 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

Can someone explain the upper boundary of "gen X"? It's post boomer, but when does it end?

Oct. 28 2008 11:55 AM
Michael West from Brooklyn, NY

Technically, Sen. Obama is a Baby Boomer. The Baby Boom ended in 1963.

Oct. 28 2008 11:54 AM
Michael Broder from Brooklyn, NY

The Baby Boom goes until 1964. Obama, like me, is what I like to call a "late boomer".

Oct. 28 2008 11:51 AM
Amy from Manhattan

McCain's management style may work in the military context, where people have to follow your orders even if you alienate them. I'm not so sure it'd work in the civilian executive context.

Oct. 28 2008 11:50 AM
O from Forest Hills

don't forget DEVO was a big hit when Obama graduated high school too! and all the new wave movement people, Sting and the Police,

Oct. 28 2008 11:49 AM
Peterson from Westchester

Sen. Obama is simply unqualified to be President of our United States. He’s one-term senator with absolutely NO executive, business or military experience.
Casting votes is not decision-making. With a vote you are one of many. As executive you make the close decisions alone – and they are often irrevocable.
You don’t get to vote “present” or have David Axlerod make decisions for you.

Oct. 28 2008 11:49 AM
Inquiring Minds

@18 Nicholas

For privacy reasons, I disagree with you. We must learn what we can without those records...otherwise it is a slippery slope with no bottom.

I must confess, I have a similar interest in Obama's UNRELEASED records. Given the co-morbidity of smoking and depression, and given that we know that Obama does smoke and has used controlled would be interesting to know the details of this.

Oct. 28 2008 11:46 AM
Chuck from Brooklyn

His "style" is one reason why he would not be a good president.

Some decisions he wouldn't be able to change.

Oct. 28 2008 11:42 AM
barry from Manhattan

If Obama keeps with his same pattern, about 3 months after taking office he will start running for World President, then once he gets that post he will run for Head of the Solar System.
Meanwhile Biden will be left running the US while Obama campaigns for the next big thing.
If,..if, he keeps with the same pattern

Oct. 28 2008 11:41 AM
Lorenzo from NY/NJ


That's because he's black.. the same could be said about his race against McCain: even if people don't think much about McCain, even if Obama's outspending him by whatever margins, even if one appears to be considerably smarter than the other.. it's still a race considered close by many.

Oct. 28 2008 11:39 AM
Nicholas J. from Atlanta, Georgia

My greatest concerns about the next president is what they will not release to the public.

John McCain has refused to releasse his mental health records to the public, and there is probably no more inportant information about a presidential candidate that the public needs to know before making a decision on who will be making the most important decisions for this nation.

I am of the generation that sent people to serve in Vietnam and I do not know a single person who served there who did not come back changed, and more often than not, there were many adverse changes to these people.

We can remember presidential campaigns in the last few`decades where mere treatment for depression was considered enough to effect the election. Senator Thomas Eagleton , a Vice Presidential nominee wha had been treated for depression had this effect the election, and also revelations that Michael Dukakis had been treated for depression also had an adverse effect on his election campaign, yet John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Hanoi for years, somehow is merely allowed to assert that he suffered no ill effects psychologically from his imprisonment has not been considered a critical element in this campaign.

All I know is that I beleive that the American people are entitled to know what is in that report before electing him to the office of the presidency.

Oct. 28 2008 11:39 AM
Inquiring Minds


Is the methodology used to train fighter pilots:


That is McCain.

On the flip side of the coin: An oft-used term used to describe overly analytical people is "analysis paralysis". Obama.

Oct. 28 2008 11:38 AM
BL Show from Varick St. Studios

[[BL Moderator Writes: A few comments have been removed for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please, remember to stay on topic to the discussion on the air, and civil. Thanks.]]

Oct. 28 2008 11:38 AM
barry from Manhattan

How is Biden some kind of counter weight? Much less a guy who will challenge Obama's ideas.
Joe Biden is way way to the left of Obama.
He picked Joe because he was pretty safe and would not piss off the far left.

Oct. 28 2008 11:37 AM
Mary from Harlem

You are forgetting Obama's role as a professor as an example of his executive experience. There was a great article in the New Yorker recently interviewing his former students.

Oct. 28 2008 11:37 AM
thomas seely from manhattan

Can the guests touch on how the way the candidates have run and organized their campaigns might indicate how they would manage their presidencies?

Oct. 28 2008 11:32 AM
Inquiring Minds

Obama spent $5.3 million dollars on that phony Greek temple!

What "bridges to nowhere" come next?

Oct. 28 2008 11:31 AM
Catherine from rockville centre

Hi Brian--

Regarding Senators having no management experience: surely they manage their Senate office?

Oct. 28 2008 11:29 AM
Lorenzo from NY/NJ

I totally agree: Obama's "sprezzatura" is straight from the book.. oh wait, am I sounding like liberal elite?

Oct. 28 2008 11:29 AM
Inquiring Minds

@6 Lorenzo

...not so fast; they say he has spent ONE HALF BILLION DOLLARS so far

and, if you stumble around here and read the comments, people don't think much of McCain

outspent Hillary 4 to 1 in states she won.


Oct. 28 2008 11:28 AM

Obama in many ways reminds me of certain athletes like Joe DiMaggio, who made things look easy.

There is a calm about this guy where he doesn't look like he is working hard. Even though he is working hard.

Whereas McCain looks like a grunt that is constantly struggling to get something done.

How important is making something look easy or effortless in one's management style?

Oct. 28 2008 11:26 AM
Lorenzo from NY/NJ

There's ONE thing to go by .. which is rarely accounted for: the incredibly well managed, disciplined, coordinated campaign that Obama has run.

Oct. 28 2008 11:19 AM

what do your guests think of the sophisticated and indeed patented decision making processes, marketed today by most major consulting firms?

the ones with which i am familiar would have saved us from lots of recent mistakes. For example, they all would have supported man's link to "global warming" (advising to err on the conservative side rather than choosing risk as the US did).

Oct. 28 2008 11:18 AM
Priya from Brooklyn

I heard at Obama has actually told his staffers that he didn't want to see any infighting within the campaign, "zero drama policy." It seems rather successful as we have seen very few leaks from his campaign. How is that maintained under the stress of a large campaign?

Oct. 28 2008 11:10 AM
Priya from Brooklyn

How did the US withdrawal from Vietnam influence McCain's view of military involvement abroad now- specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. But perhaps more widely in the manner he may wield the use of military power?

Oct. 28 2008 11:08 AM
mc from Brooklyn

"most liberal?" Please. We haven't seen "liberal" in ages.

Oct. 28 2008 10:21 AM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

At a rally in Cleveland, Ohio Senator John McCain said an Obama presidency could be dangerous.

Sen. McCain: “Do you want to keep invested in your future or do you want to have it taken by the most liberal person ever run for the presidency and the Democratic leaders most liberal, who have been running Congress for the past 2 years (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid. You know my friends, this is a dangerous threesome.”

And there are those who feel this country would be in better shape with a demogogue like McCain?

Oct. 28 2008 10:15 AM

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