In “Managing Leadership,” I provided a brief description of how the market for leadership training developed, and how suppliers from consultancies and academia rushed to fill it. The intent was to lay the groundwork for a discussion of some of the shortcomings of many of those offerings. But, to be fair, market demand drew them in, and it has kept them coming to this very day.
An article about productivity, published recently in a fashionable management periodical, engaged in a tangential explanation of the putative difference between leadership and management. The interesting thing about this was, not the explanation itself, certainly, but the author’s offer, with manifestly pained resignation, of alternative terms for leadership (general management skills) and management (specific management practices).
When people offer definitions of management, or some aspect of it, as a way of entering into a discussion or argument, the definitions are commonly impregnated with the conclusions that it is desired you accede to. That is to say, most people who address the subject today seem to have an agenda they want you to accept. That’s potentially okay, but it’s important for you to be aware of what’s going on . . .
One of the key questions Peter Drucker struggled with was the issue of who a manager is. It was common, and still is, to understand a manager as someone who is responsible for the work of others – a boss. But he knew that there are members of organizations who perform vital functions that are independent of the number of subordinates, if any, those members have. Indeed, their contributions are often more vital than that of those of their peers with numerous workers under their authority . . .
Peter Drucker argued that we can learn to be better managers – not by attempting to kid ourselves that we can, or ought to try to, burst the limits of our individual abilities, but rather by learning the roles of management and practicing them until we achieve competence . . .
When Peter Drucker was writing books such as “The Effective Executive” and “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices,” the practice of management in modern organizations was only taking shape, largely with his prodding and suggestions. Indeed, organizations themselves were only just becoming widely understood as the new fundamental fact about modern society . . .
The best way for management to stay out of trouble, when considering any decision in any other realm including those outlined below, is to make sure that the decision can unmistakably be assessed as contributing directly or indirectly to the economic performance of the firm. . .
Peter Drucker focused on management throughout his life for a reason. The fact that modern society in the industrial era was increasingly composed of a web of non-governmental and non-military organizations – organizations conceived, established, and run by ordinary citizens for their own interests – was radically rewriting the roles and functions of those organizations, and bringing into existence a whole new breed of professional: the manager.
Drucker was concerned that most managers attain such poor control of their own time that they actually spend hardly any of it at all on these essential managerial jobs. Failure to do so will cause an organization, or members within it, to drift aimlessly – you’ve all likely seen this at one time or another. . .
It can be difficult, precisely, to define the terms “management” or “manager.” Peter Drucker took as effective an approach to this problem as there is: he defined them not by what they, in and of themselves, are, but by what they do. Swept up in the distortions of our self-absorbed age, it is refreshing to have the focus turned to function, letting form take care of itself.
Drawing from detailed knowledge and vast experience with boards in Europe, the US, and Japan, Peter Drucker was able to discern the practical import of the legal features that distinguished them, together with the one great fact that he believed was shared by them all: “They do not function.“ (emphasis his) . . .
If there were only two writers on management you must read, Peter Drucker would certainly be one of them (Mary Parker Follett would be the other). And if there were only two of his books that you should read, this would be one (we will review the other next month). In the past several posts, we have reviewed what a manager is and what he or she does. The purpose was to help determine how to develop managers and train them to do these things better. In order to help illustrate the force of our arguments, we resorted frequently to this book by Peter Drucker, written over 30 years ago. . .
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