This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

In the Shadow of the Presidency: Presidential Management and the Influence of Cabinet Secretaries




Koehler, John

Type of Degree



Political Science


Scholars today recognize weaknesses in the president’s ability to pass significant legislation. I ask how presidents can increase their overall influence. They must look internally at their management style and the organization of the Executive Branch. They must also improve their relationship with other political actors, namely Congress and interest groups. Several studies have looked at presidential organization focusing on White House staff and other parts of the Executive Office of the President, such as the Office of Management and Budgeting. I suggest that cabinet secretaries are an overlooked presidential resource. How helpful a resource are cabinet secretaries and how can they be utilized? It depends upon a president’s management style – their level of involvement and the level of clarity with which they give direction. This study provides a typology of four different managerial approaches of modern presidents and analyzes four cases to highlight the importance of cooperation and coordination with Executive Department heads in policy-making. I conclude that secretaries can help the president influence Congress and interest groups. The working relationship that the president has with their cabinet members affects how an administration makes decisions, which proposals it supports, as well as the legislative success of those proposals. In cases where the president is not actively engaged with the cabinet member in creating the initiative and collaborating on a political strategy, the president is more likely to allow Congress to alter the bill or have a weak bill initially, leaving the cabinet member and their department, highly disappointed. In cases where the president is proactive in a policy’s development and the legislative process, the resulting bill is more identical to the department’s proposals and a more substantive victory for the president.