Why JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon thinks CEOs make bad presidents

September 20, 2015, 7:17 PM UTC
Jamie Dimon
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR JP MORGAN CHASE - Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan & Chase Co. Chairman and CEO, discusses the impact of The Fellowship Initiative, Monday, June 23, 2014, at JPMorgan Chase Headquarters in New York. The expanded Fellowship Initiative enrolls young men of color in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City in a multi-year hands-on enrichment program that includes academic, social and emotional support. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for JPMorgan Chase/AP Images)
Photograph by Diane Bondareff — Invision for JP Morgan Chase/AP

In a Meet the Press interview on Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon whether a CEO would make a good president. Given that one CEO, Donald Trump, stands atop the Republican polls, and another, former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina, isn’t far behind, it’s instructive to hear whether a corporate leader who’s worked closely with politicians to navigate the financial crisis, and shape banking regulation, thinks that the skills required to run a big business translate into excellence in politics.

Dimon says no. “I think some of the attributes could be good,” he told Todd. “Running things, knowing how to run things, knowing how to get good people involved.” But he quickly added: “It’s not sufficient. I think you have a whole ‘nother set of attributes. I think it’s really complex—politics. It’s three-dimensional chess.”

Dimon is acknowledging that in all fields, the difference between an amateur and a professional is immense. And politics requires extremely specific, well-honed skills that can be acquired only through years of practice. Staying on message, avoiding gaffes, pouncing on your opponents miscues in debates, mastering the essential of a broad range of issues so you’re never caught off-guard. These are talents far removed from allocating capital between dividends and buybacks, or weighing the costs and benefits of online versus branch banking.

We’re already seeing how the “apprentice” issue is undermining Trump’s candidacy. It happened with Fiorina in her California senate run, and is likely to hobble her again. A few years ago while working on a Dimon story, I interviewed former Congressman Rick Lazio, then a JP Morgan (JPM) executive whom Hillary Clinton had defeated in a New York Senate race. I asked Lazio if he thought Dimon would make a good politician. Lazio said yes, that his leadership skills would enable him to switch fields with great success. Of course, Lazio was giving a political answer. Jamie Dimon knows better. His brash, outspoken style is indeed a great asset in business, but wouldn’t work on the stump or in Congress. It’s refreshing to find a CEO who acknowledges that politics is an art in itself, an art that business leaders, no matter how big their egos, are no better equipped to practice than senators running carmakers or banks. Which, as Dimon would say, they often try to do, and often get it wrong.

For more about the presidential race, watch this Fortune video:

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