As politics and business are becoming increasingly intertwined, many companies today conclude that a politically sensitive management is essential in furthering a company’s political welfare. Consequently, a number of firms are initiating a range of programs to develop the political management skills of their managers. The goal is not to encourage managers to run for public office or to enter political life as individuals; rather, it is to make them better able to understand and communicate the company’s political position as part of their regular management functions. The author holds that in time companies will stress the public affairs role of their managers to such an extent that a manager’s public service performance will become a significant criterion for his or her advancement in the firm. Thus, he concludes that the time has come to cultivate a new breed — the politically active manager.
References1. I. Shapiro, "Business and the Public Policy Process" (Boston, MA: Harvard University Symposium on Business and Government, May 9, 1979). 2. R.E. Beck, "The Liberal Arts Major in Bell System Management" (Basic Human Resources Research Group, American Telephone and Telegraph Company, 1981). 3. D. Winter, D. McClelland, and A. Stewart, A New Case for the Liberal Arts (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1981). 4. R.B. Smith, "Why Business Needs the Liberal Arts" (Address to the Commercial Club of Chicago. Reprinted by the Council for Financial Aid to Education, New York). 5. The Business Roundtable's recommendations appear in F.W. Steckmest, Corporate Performance; The Key to Public Trust (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982).
6. S. Lusterman, Managerial Competence: The Public Affairs Aspect (New York: The Conference Board, 1981).
A number of other approaches to broadening managerial political capacities are described in P.S. McGrath, Developing Employee Political Awareness (New York: The Conference Board, 1980).7. Descriptions of the three programs are drawn from interviews with company managers who operate each program and with others familiar with the courses, and from the author's participation in the Shell program, once as an invited faculty participant and once as a comoderator for the seminar. 8. D.G. Moore, Politics and the Corporate Chief Executive (New York: The Conference Board, 1980). 9. R.G. Shaeffer, Top-Management Staffing Challenges: CEOs Describe Their Needs (New York: The Conference Board, 1982).
10. This example is drawn from parallel interviews that I conducted with managing directors of a number of large British firms. For further information on the interviews and other data sources, see:
M. Useem, "Classwide Rationality in the Politics of Managers and Directors of Large Corporations in the United States and Great Britain," Administrative Science Quarterly 27 (1982): 199-226;
M. Useem, The Inner Circle: Large Corporations and the Rise of Business Political Activity in the U.S. and U.K. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).11. Steckmest (1982). 12. Ibid. 13. Lusterman (1981). 14. Ibid.
15. Although the line separating a firm's senior managers from others is imprecise, for purposes of analysis we adopted a widely used definition of top management as the seniormost six to ten managers of the firm. A Conference Board survey of the chief executives of 432 large companies in 1981, for instance, reports that "top management" is generally considered to include the highest ranking six to ten executives, with a median near eight. See R.G. Shaeffer and A.R. Janger, Who Is Top Management? (New York: The Conference Board, 1982).
We also focused on the top eight managers associated with each of the 212 corporations (in some cases only six or seven could be identified). Information on the managers' public affairs activities is drawn from reference and biographical directories published by Marquis, Standard & Poor's, Moody's, Dun and Bradstreet, Taft Corporation, and the U.S. Government, and membership lists made available by The Business Roundtable, Business Council, Committee for Economic Development, and Council on Foreign Relations. This information is assembled primarily for the period from 1975 to 1980. Details on information sources and sampling procedure for selecting the 212 corporations can be found in Useem (1984).16. H. Mintzberg, "The Manager's Job: Folklore and Fact," Harvard Business Review, July-August 1975, pp. 49-61. 17. J.E. Post, E.A. Murray, Jr., R.B. Dickie, and J.F. Mahon, "Managing Public Affairs: The Public Affairs Function," California Management Review, Fall 1983, pp. 135-150. 18. "How Business Is Getting Through to Washington," Business Week, 4 October 1982, p. 16. 19. F.W. Steckmest, "Career Development for the Public Policy Dimension of Executive Performance," Public Affairs Review (1981): 71-87.