The Atlantic

Why CEOs Like Rex Tillerson Fail in Washington

Although the former secretary of state’s contentious relationship with the president didn’t help matters, Tillerson’s management style left a department in disarray.
Source: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Rex Tillerson is hardly the first person to be targeted in a tweet from Donald Trump, but on Tuesday morning, he became the first Cabinet official to be fired by one. It was an ignominious end to Tillerson’s 13-month stint as secretary of state, a tenure that would have been undistinguished if it weren’t so entirely destructive.

Compared with expectations for other members of Trump’s Cabinet, the disastrous results of Tillerson’s time in office are somewhat surprising. Unlike the EPA’s Scott Pruitt, Tillerson did not have obvious antipathy for the department he headed; unlike HUD’s Ben Carson, he had professional experience that was relevant to the job; and unlike Education’s Betsy DeVos, his confirmation hearing wasn't a disaster.

The fact that Tillerson publicly clashed with Trump over everything from to did nothing to make his job any easier, but his sorry legacy as secretary of state was sealed by a complete misunderstanding of the job before him.Rather than the nation’s top diplomat and an embodiment abroad of American values, Tillerson appeared to regard his mandate as little more than an exercise in cost-cutting and corporate reorganization. His time at the State Department seemed to test beliefs that

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