Posted on June 4, 2009
Cybersecurity Czar. Climate and Energy Czar. US-Mexico Border Czar. Urban Affairs Czar. Bank Bailout Czar. The list of new titles created within the White House “Executive Office of the President” goes on, and reportedly numbers near 20 now. The trend has lots of Washington insiders and poli-sci academia-types talking up a storm.
I’m not opposed to Czars. I spent more than five years working full-time as contractor to the Drug Czar. But I also served in an Agency for a time and remember how annoying it was to try and steer policy with some “I may not have a staff, but I have the President’s ear” type at the White House to compete with.
I’ve got a little advice for the Czars.
• Take time to get to know the Federal departments that have jurisdiction in your policy area. You might be surprised that there are some really bright thinkers among the rank-and-file civil servants. Leave the White House and spend time walking the halls in the Executive Branch. Really. It won’t kill you.
• Develop relationships with the political appointees whose toes you may be stepping on. They have a whole lot more muscle behind them with full communications teams, legislative liaisons, and subject matter experts who can be both a help and a hindrance depending on how you play your cards.
• Don’t let your status morph into an ego that leads you to believe you were elected to office. As the GenY crowd says, “Keep it real.”