James A. Baker III was White House Chief of Staff from 1981-1985, Secretary of the Treasury from 1985-1988, and Secretary of State from 1989-1992.

I started my career as a lawyer in Texas with no inclination of ever moving into politics. Yet through a couple of twists and turns in this great game of life, I went on to become White House chief of staff for two different presidents, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State. I credit much of the success I experienced in my unlikely political and public service career to the pride I took in leading through action. Many people live their lives based on the way they think things ought to be, not the way things are. The issue with this approach is that when you live your life looking through rose-colored glasses, you become blind to the problems of the real world and the actions needed to solve them.

As a pragmatist, however, I also recognize that “hope breeds hope” and as such, leaders must often attempt to appeal to those who have a rosy worldview. Ultimately, this is the job of a chief of staff – to balance the aspirations of their principal with the reality of what is accomplishable. To be an effective chief of staff you must be content with the anonymity of your accomplishments because they are not your accomplishments. The credit must go to the principal.

To be an effective chief of staff, one should always focus on the “staff” part of the title and not the “chief.” Generally, it is better for a chief of staff to not have been a principal before they have taken that job because all their power is vicarious from the boss. One’s function as chief of staff is to grease the levers of power for them to be easier for your principal to pull.

It is important that there be a central medium to discuss this vital function. That is why I am pleased to support The Chief of Staff Association and the launch of their inaugural edition of The Chief of Staff. With the launch of this journal, The Chief of Staff Association will be providing the public with the necessary tools and information to create a shared knowledge base and advance respect for the profession. This will make chiefs of staff across every sector more effective in accomplishing a singular directive; providing the necessary support to assist his or her principal in accomplishing their agenda.

Finally, I would like to thank all the contributors for this inaugural edition of The Chief of Staff who brought forth valuable insights to a profession I have dedicated much of my adult life to. I expect these insights to be utilized across the public and private sector, advancing the scope and respect of this role across industries. I look forward to future editions of the journal and am confident it will influence and shape the profession for generations to come.