WASHINGTON, D.C.-- As chief executive officer of America Inc., Barack Obama has walked the factory floor when it comes to managing the federal response to the Gulf oil spill, going directly to front-line workers. The president is not, of course, the head of a company. He's accountable to the public in ways a chief executive is not to shareholders. Governance and politics differ from effective corporate management while sharing certain qualities. The Gulf calamity, like the presidency itself, is a crash course in executive management for a man who came to office with no such experience to speak of. How's he doing? A mix of real-world CEOs and business theorists interviewed by The Associated Press sketched out qualities of a corporate executive and judged Obama by them: Consult, not insult Obama's tough words about BP while refusing for weeks to talk to Hayward. The dispatching of the attorney general to the Gulf in a prelude to legal action. The keister-kicking threat. It all might make for good politics - or it might not. To Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC of Baltimore, it was a failure of executive leadership. CEOs talk first and sue only if necessary, he said. Greenblatt found it "stunning" that Obama let so much time lapse before meeting the BP chief after the spill. "I would have had Hayward in my office that afternoon." Getting with people Although Obama is big on "transparency," the Oval Office lacks the glass walls favored by many in business as a way for bosses to stay connected with workers. That's why it's been important for him to visit the Gulf and talk to response workers and citizens - his way of walking the factory floor, Messenger says. "Sometimes they hit you between the eyes with a comment you just hadn't thought of," he said about the employees he encounters this way. "For Obama, that's where being on the ground and talking to citizens makes a difference." Art of negotiation Entrepreneur Siamak Taghaddos, co-founder and CEO of Grasshopper Group LLC of Needham, Mass., says the knocks on Obama for being slow or late to respond are off base. "I see it as a negotiating tactic" worthy of the boardroom, he said. Taghaddos said it was not clear right away that securing compensation would become a top priority. By keeping some distance until that issue clarified, Obama might have strengthened his hand in obtaining the compensation fund from the oil company. Keeping balance The U.S. government, an enterprise with an assortment of interests unmatched in the business world, can't become fixated on the spill, however horrific, at the expense of other big things, says Joseph Schocken, president of the Broadmark Capital investment bank in Seattle. "For a real CEO, the most important thing to keep in mind is your overall responsibilities," he says. "Obama is not CEO of the spill. He's the CEO of the United States." Obama has kept that balance, Schocken said, and realized that crises are always opportunities of some sort.