By Andrew Lisa, Contributor
From H. Ross Perot to Mitt Romney, high achievers from the corporate world sometimes base presidential runs almost solely on their business acumen and success in the private sector. But as voters tend to remind them, great CEOs and great presidents are two different types of people. A president faces immediate and critical challenges -- and matters of life and death -- that even the most heavily relied-upon CEOs could never imagine.
But if one business leader is more presidential than several of the candidates currently running for president in 2016, it is Warren Buffett. The financial guru, philanthropist and billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway is more than just the most successful investor of the 20th century. He embodies the traits and leadership skills that make a great president.
1. Great Presidents Own Up to Their Mistakes
In 2007, The New York Times editorialized that the goal of a president who has erred is to "acknowledge failure without seeming like a failure." From John F. Kennedy's contrition after the Bay of Pigs disaster to Ronald Reagan's lukewarm mea culpa in the wake of the Iran-contra scandal, history is full of examples of presidents regaining trust and credibility by taking ownership of their mistakes or squandering the opportunity by deflecting blame.
Buffett's highly anticipated annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders in 2015 was, according to The Washington Post, filled with examples of Buffett's willingness to acknowledge his mistakes. In one instance, he wrote "I'm not embarrassed to admit that Heinz is run far better under Alex Behring, Chairman, and Bernardo Hees, CEO, than would be the case if I were in charge." In another, he wrote that he "made a big mistake with this investment by dawdling."
2. Great Presidents Don't Pass the Buck
President Harry Truman's White House desk was adorned with a sign that famously read, "The Buck Stops Here!" This motto defined his presidency so much that in his farewell address, he said, "The president -- whoever he is -- has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody."
According to Inc., Buffett's annual shareholder letter from 2012 included a shining example of his refusal to pass the buck. In his trademark blunt, no-nonsense style, he stated, "I've run out of good news. Here are some developments that hurt us during 2011." He went on to detail the particulars of two costly errors that took place under his stewardship. He closed with four words: "I was dead wrong."
3. Great Presidents Empower People Who Can Relate to the Masses
The people the president chooses to surround himself with reflect a lot about the president's character and priorities. When a president's cabinet members and confidants understand and empathize with the average citizen, the electorate tends to feel like it is being represented by an administration that knows what the people are going through.
"It's better to hang out with people better than you," Buffett said at Berkshire Hathaway's 2004 annual meeting. "Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours, and you'll drift in that direction."
According to The Washington Post, Buffett also makes a point of paying his board members nominal fees instead of giant salaries. Unlike virtually every other company, board members receive no liability insurance, ensuring that they face the same risks on every investment as the average shareholder.
4. Great Presidents Know the Office Is Bigger Than the Man
A president can use the unrivaled power of the office to forward his agenda, to benefit his allies or to serve his own political priorities. But great presidents serve the office instead of using the office to serve themselves because they understand that the presidency is bigger than any one president.
According to many of his closest confidants, including a top aide who spoke with the Deseret News in 1998, Ronald Reagan was so humbled by and enamored with the office of the presidency that he wouldn't even remove his jacket in the Oval Office. "He didn't think it would be dignified," the aide said, "given the history of the room."
Likewise, Buffett considers Berkshire Hathaway not as a company that exists to make him rich, but an institution he has taken an oath to serve. His biographer told Business Insider that although the price of Berkshire stock rose from $18 to $122,000 per share during his half a century at the helm, Buffett capped his own salary at $100,000 and never sold a single share of stock.
5. Great Presidents Care About the Earth and People
Instead of using his political capital to repay allies or empower his party, Theodore Roosevelt focused his agenda on natural conservation and monopoly trust busting -- both of which won him powerful enemies in the corporate and political worlds. His legacy is the country's treasured national park system, for which he set aside 200 million acres of virgin land for parks, wildlife reserves and forests that were, and still are, off limits to logging companies and other corporate interests that want to pilfer them. He put the interests of common workers over corporate profits and sparked a national outcry when he invited Booker T. Washington to become the first black man ever to dine at the White House.
In 2006, Buffett announced that he would give away 85 percent of his money to charity rather than hoard it or leave it to his children. "There's no reason why future generations of little Buffetts should command society just because they came from the right womb," he said. "Where's the justice in that?"
Foreign Policy named Buffett one of the top 100 global thinkers of 2010, and in 2014, CNBC declared Buffett was "the world's most generous man" when he donated 16.6 million shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock -- or $2.1 billion -- to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
6. World Leaders Listen to His Economic Policy Advice
Given his insight into business and economic issues and his experience discussing such topics with high-profile leaders and the media, Buffett is comfortable weighing in on matters of economic policy. In recent months, he's talked about what the Federal Reserve should do with interest rates, whether the Keystone XL pipeline project should be approved and other matters of business and world markets with media outlets such as Fox Business and CNBC. Moreover, people listen.
President Barack Obama awarded Buffett with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2011, noting how highly respected Buffett is around the world and how he has pledged to donate most of his wealth to philanthropic endeavors. He said Buffett "uses his stature as a leader to press others of great means to do the same."
7. Great Presidents Know When Their Run Is Over
In 1988, The New York Times reflected on Lyndon B. Johnson's historic speech delivered 20 years earlier in which the legendary Washington power broker shocked the nation by declaring, "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.''
As an old-school, backroom political wheeler and dealer, Johnson was drawn to power. But as casualties in Vietnam mounted and his fractured nation grew increasingly divided at home, either the burdens of office became too heavy or he believed the country needed change. Either way, he voluntarily relinquished power.
In a few different ways, such as his acknowledgement of the leaders of Heinz, Warren Buffett has demonstrated a wisdom for knowing how to recognize when he should or should not be the one at the helm. He has been quoted as saying, "Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks."
A Leader Who Can't Be Bought
Warren Buffett could be a great candidate for president because he is more than a wildly successful businessman and a brilliant investor. He is a leader who values service over money and who breaks the stereotype of the cold, unfeeling capitalist. In the half century that he has spent in the public eye, he has credited others with his company's successes while assuming responsibility for its losses. And in an age when lobbyists and special-interest groups dominate politics, Buffett can't be bought.
This post originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 7 Reasons Warren Buffett Should Run for President
Photo credit: Stuart Isett/Fortune Most Powerful Women
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