Ask Sir Richard Branson the best business advice he ever got and you'll hear that it's to have no regrets. All the time you spend pouring over mistakes is lost opportunity to do something new and better.
But avoiding past regrets doesn't mean to take whatever happens. And for a presidential election in which he can't vote but which will have "major implications on the rest of the world," Branson made his choice clear: not Trump.
In a blog post, Branson wrote that the real estate businessman and former reality TV star would be a mistake to elect. In Branson's view, Trump lacks the skills to be a good entrepreneur. Those skills provide a great benefit in leadership roles, Brandon says:
I believe this involves being a good listener, putting others before oneself, being an effective delegator and striving to make a positive difference to the world. Great entrepreneurs build businesses with purpose at their heart and always treat people with respect. These are not characteristics I see in Mr. Trump - neither in his previous business dealings, nor in this campaign.
He considers Trump "irrational, aggressive" and "[lacking] informed ideas on how to grow jobs in America." By focusing on "division and close-mindedness" as well as a "lack of empathy," Trump hasn't the characteristics and understandings of an entrepreneur that could help improve the country's outlook. As Branson wrote:
Two of the most useful traits entrepreneurs can possess are the knowledge when to take risks and how to make decisions. You manage the downside, you seek the facts to inform your view, and you don't ever allow fear to influence your opinion.
All this is true, but that doesn't mean entrepreneurs are necessarily good choices for public office. For example, the inclination to take risks, so necessary in starting a new venture, can create a range of difficulties as head of state. At stake can be human life or vast financial sums. Remember the war in Iraq or deregulation of the banking industry? Too much risk can turn into a situation that has a multi-generational impact on the economy and the national psyche.
Then there is decision making. Entrepreneurs have to be decisive and also ready to know when to change course. The necessary flexibility requires both the willingness to listen to advisors and the authority to make the final decision.
However, while such single-handed control might be available to the leader of a totalitarian state, it is unavailable in a republic. There are significant limitations on what actions a president can unilaterally take. Congress must be involved in most major areas of action. Different parties and even factions of parties can have contrasting interests and might be able to block a presidential plan.
The president must be reelected after four years to maintain the job and continue pursuing policies, which means keeping enough people in the right states pleased enough to vote for you. That is different from entrepreneurs who can more freely operate and aren't generally up for reevaluation, unless there is significant outside investment.
Essentially, Branson is right in thinking that some characteristics critical to being a good entrepreneur are also vital to being president, or any sort of leader. But that is far from all the traits -- not just personal, but executive skills, broad knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs, and expertise in how public governance works -- that are necessary to preside over the US.