`EXCELLENCE' AUTHOR WOULD HIRE PEROT `FOR FAST ACTION'

Deciding which presidential candidate he would hire to run a company would depend on the "strategic challenges facing the enterprise," Robert Waterman says. But if he needed fast action to turn it around, Mr. Waterman would probably hire Ross Perot.

Waterman is a management consultant whose most recent book is "Adhocracy, the Power to Change." But his most famous work is the best-selling "In Search of Excellence," which he wrote with Tom Peters.

His impression is that Mr. Perot uses a General Patton leadership style: He clearly defines his enemies, including those in his own organization, and then charges ahead.

But Waterman also says that people who know Perot well say he is a good listener to his own troops.

Perot's style has a proven track record, of course. His estimated net worth may approach $5 billion. Waterman's last choice as a chief executive would be George Bush, "because he doesn't surround himself with good people." Waterman worked on Ronald Reagan's first transition team, partly because he thought highly of Mr. Bush. He says he has since been disillusioned.

His impression of Bush is that rather than listening closely to the front-line troops, he deals with a small group of advisers. It's a traditional, top-down, centrally planned style "that doesn't work any more. It's what got us into such competitiveness trouble," Waterman says.

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