Bad Choices For Leaders: Tillerson and Bolton

Bad Choices For Leaders: Tillerson and Bolton


Leonard Zwelling

One of the best leaders for whom I have ever worked was Dr. Margaret Kripke. Margaret taught me that the best predictor of performance in a new appointee is past performance. If you did your last job well, you might be able to do your next one well. If you did your last one poorly, it did not preclude future success, but it did portend a less favorable outcome was likely.

Cut to the Houston Chronicle on Saturday, March 24,
Recently fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s name is being proposed to replace Admiral McRaven as Chancellor of the University of Texas.

This is a monumentally terrible idea and I make that statement based on the Kripke Rule.

Admiral McRaven seemed like an excellent choice for Chancellor. He was a UT alumnus and had delivered an inspirational address on leadership to a UT graduation class. He has also been credited with devising the plan to eliminate Osama Bin Laden and leading its successful execution. He was a leader in the Navy SEALs and distinguished in every way in many of the positions that he had over the years. It was reasonable to think that Admiral McRaven would be an ideal UT Chancellor. But, for whatever reason, his health or his clashes with the Governor over the Chancellor’s plans to buy land in Houston, he is stepping down after only three years.

Now a man who was dismissed by Donald Trump (that could be an indicator of accomplishment, I understand) and who left critical offices in the State Department vacant and by every measure failed at leading this most critical organ of American foreign policy, is being proposed to lead UT. He is not an educator, scientist, lawyer, or academic. His entire career was spent at Exxon which is laudatory, but not in preparation to lead a major university. I hope the Regents rethink this idea and I hope Mr. Tillerson does too if he even entertains the notion of leading a major university. He simply is not qualified and has shown no ability to translate his considerable business experience into leadership in another field (diplomacy).

President Trump in the continuing demonstration of his poor judgment has appointed John Bolton, the former UN Ambassador to be the National Security Advisor.

Now this guy hasn’t met a war he wouldn’t like to wage nor any avenue of diplomacy that he would. He so scared the Senate when he was being vetted to be the UN Ambassador that the Senate rejected him forcing President Bush 43 to make a recess appointment to get him in place.

Bolton is a bellicose neo-con partly responsible for getting us into the war in Iraq. He is known to be a bully and nasty to his underlings. This is not the guy the US needs in the sensitive position of head of NSA especially since this appointment does not need to be confirmed by the Senate.

In the case of McRaven, I understood his appointment. It would not have been mine as I believe that the Chancellor of the University of Texas should know something about universities and he did not. Silly me!

Tillerson would make an even worse Chancellor. I doubt he even cares about academia. I think this idea can be headed off.

Bolton on the other hand seems sure to assume his role in the Trump White House. He along with Mike Pompeo, the fellow hawk now at State, could really set our foreign policy back many years if their aggressive and martial ideas are put into effect.

I think in the case of Tillerson and Bolton, past performance will likely predict future success. This bodes poorly for American interests in an ever more hostile world.

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