The only way to be an effective World Bank president is to be an effective diplomat. Like all CEOs, the head of the Bank reports to a board of directors — but at the World Bank, the board of directors which meets twice a week. And they’re not friendly hand-picked board members, either — they’re political appointees who fight their geographical corners, who live full-time in Washington, and who work full-time out of offices within the Bank itself. If you want to get anything done at the Bank, you need to persuade the board to leave you alone and not micromanage every decision you make.
You also need to be an almost superhuman manager. The World Bank has more than 10,000 employees from over 160 countries, with offices in more than 100 countries around the world. The range of cultural expectations they bring to their jobs is truly enormous, and the amount of political jostling and mutual incomprehension which results is entirely predictable. In order to manage this rabble, you need a very high level of cultural and interpersonal sensitivity.
Larry Summers often gets a bad rap from the people who should be his allies. Inside the administration, Summers was among the most pessimistic on the chances for a quick recovery, and the most insistent on the need for more stimulus. But even he admits he’s not the best at fostering consensus among different views — much less among different cultures and interests. It is not, at first glance, obvious that this job would be a good fit for him.
Salmon, meanwhile, has another candidate in mind: ‘If Obama must appoint an American, it should probably be a Clinton — either Hillary or Bill, with Hillary being the much more likely of the two. “