Drucker on Leadership as Work

In his book, The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management, Peter Drucker analyzed the ways that management practices and principles affect the performance of organizations, individuals, and society. The book covers the basic principles of management and gives professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the environment of tomorrow will require of them.

These are my takeaways from reading the book.

First, the misconception about leadership and it is not…

Leadership is not by itself good or desirable. Instead, leadership is a means, and to what end is the crucial question.

Effective leadership also does not depend on charisma. In fact, charisma can become the undoing of leaders. Charisma can make leaders inflexible, convinced of their infallibility, thus unable to change when the situations require it.

Drucker also did not believe there are any such things as “leadership qualities” or a “leadership personality.” He mentioned the examples of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, and Douglas MacArthur. They were all highly effective leaders during, yet no two of them shared any “personality traits” or any “qualities.”

Leadership is about work, responsibility, and trust.

The first thing to say about leadership is that it is work. The foundation of effective leadership is thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it, and establishing it, clearly and visibly. The leader sets the goals, sets the priorities, and sets and maintains the standards. She makes compromises if she must, but the effective leader also has thought through what is right and desirable.

The second thing about leadership is that the leader sees leadership as a responsibility rather than as rank and privilege. When things go wrong, leaders do not blame others. Rather, the leaders own responsibility.

An effective leader also wants strong associates. Because she holds himself ultimately responsible for the mistakes of her associates and subordinates, she also sees the triumphs of her associates as her triumphs, rather than as threats. An effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision.

The final point about effective leadership is to earn trust. To trust a leader, it is not necessary to like her or agree with her on everything. Trust is the conviction that the leader means what she says, which is a display of a thing called “integrity.” A leader’s actions and a leader’s professed beliefs must be congruent. Therefore, effective leadership is based primarily on being consistent.

In conclusion, leadership is mundane, unromantic, and boring. Most importantly, the leadership’s essence is the combination of work, responsibility, and trust to deliver performance.