Donald Trump won the White House by arguing that what America needed was a president who had proved himself as a steely and successful corporate leader with no political baggage — someone, say, like himself.
If Abraham Lincoln relied on a team of rivals, Trump would command a team of “killer” CEOs. He cast himself as a gifted manager who could rewrite flawed trade deals, bridge gaps between Democrats and Republicans, work financial magic on the tax code and restore prosperity to devastated factory towns.
Yet 100 days into Trump’s presidency, the businessman-as-president has struggled to apply his experience as a real estate and entertainment mogul to the Herculean task of governing the world’s most powerful nation.
Asked to assess his tenure so far, management experts point to a stream of missteps that run counter to the clarity, discipline and consistency of message typical of the best executives. Blustery speeches have given way to fuzzy policies that have weakened the president’s negotiating hand on such complex challenges as revamping taxes and health insurance.
Trump’s actions on immigration have been blocked or tangled up in court battles. He has yet to fill countless senior government jobs. Having failed to pass any major legislation, Trump has instead resorted to signing a torrent of executive orders — an impulse more typical of a manager directing subordinates than a president building partnerships.
The administration has declared the 100-day mark an arbitrary deadline. But leading CEOs often work under even tighter schedules: Investors gauge their performance each quarter — every 90 days. John Challenger, CEO of the executive recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, notes that new chief executives typically face pressure to achieve victories in their first 90 days. Such milestones tend to draw potential critics to their side and establish authority, he said.
“They don’t have to be big wins —they can be early wins as you look for ways to show you’ve had an impact,” Challenger said. “This administration has had a hard time demonstrating, showing that.”
White House aides point out that Trump will have signed 32 executive orders by Friday, the most of any president in his first 100 days since World War II. But the actions produced by those orders fall well short of the bold promises he made as a candidate. Several of the executive orders are merely requests for studies — on financial regulations, environmental rules and trade policies. They suggest that the administration is still figuring out how government works and how to tame a rambunctious and independent-minded Congress, even one led, like the White House, by Republicans.
Trump still likes to bask in the glow of corporate America. Almost weekly, he has met with major chief executives at the White House for input on policy and photo-ops. Yet few around him know their way around government.
For secretary of state, Trump chose Rex Tillerson, the former chief…