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Peter Drucker: How to Lead Others Well

Everyone is a leader. The first and most important person we each lead is ourselves. Those who lead themselves well often end up leading others. To lead others well, you must learn how to identify and bolster the strengths of those you lead. In The Effective Executive, Drucker address the concept of leading others well by recognizing and developing the strengths they possess.

When leading people in your organization in such a way that you develop their strengths, Drucker prescribes four basic rules.

1. Create a job that can be done. Far too many organizations and churches create a job that only a genius can fill and only a savant can accomplish. We want the perfect person sometimes to our own fault.

Drucker says he knows that the test of organization is not genius. It is its capacity to make common people achieve uncommon performance.

Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-06). The Effective Executive (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 80). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

2. The job needs to be demanding and big. This does not contradict point one but is a further clarification of it. If you want uncommon people to do uncommon things—to use and develop their strengths—it will only happen through intentional clarity. You don’t grow someone’s strengths by being vague and grandiose but by creating a position that forces them to grow and learn in the confines of organizational and positional clarity.

3. You have to start with what someone can do with what the job requires. You have to first ask yourself, “Is this the right person for any job?” then ask, “Is this the right person for this job?” If you don’t find the right person, what they do will never work. Who always matters more than what.

Once you have the right person, you need to create a way to evaluate that person in a consistent, ongoing way. If you don’t create a culture of systematic ongoing evaluation, you never will have a culture that functions in terms of strengths. It is only through a culture where evaluation is not only expected but welcomed that you will develop a healthy climate for change. Here is Drucker on questions you need to ask in terms of measuring performance:

All one can measure is performance. And all one should measure is performance. This is another reason for making jobs big and challenging. It is also a reason for thinking through the contribution a person should make to the results and the performance of the organization. For one can measure performance only against specific performance expectations. Still one needs some form of appraisal procedure—or else one makes the personnel evaluation at the wrong time: that is, when a job has to be filled. Effective executives, therefore, usually work out their own radically different form. It starts out with a statement of the major contributions expected from a person in past and present positions and a record of performance against these goals.

Then it asks four questions:

(a) “What has he/she done well?”
(b) “What, therefore, is he/she likely to be able to do well?”
(c) “What does he/she have to learn or acquire to be able to get the full benefit from his/her strength?”
(d) “If I had a son or daughter, would I be willing to have him or her work under this person?”
(i) “If yes, why?”
(ii) “If no, why?”

Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-06). The Effective Executive (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 86). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Of these questions, the fourth is most telling: “If I had a child, would I be willing to have them work under this person?” If not, something needs to be done. You need to ask, “Why am I allowing other people’s children to work for this person?” Then start making changes by either moving that person within the organization to an area of greater strength or let them go.

The last section Drucker covers has to do with character. You can have many strengths, but if you don’t have character, you don’t have anything. I have been able to travel to different churches and talk to leaders from around the country. The issue of the abuse and misuse of authority is a very real problem. I have talked to leaders whose churches imploded because a leader did not lead in a manner worthy of the gospel. For those of us who preach the gospel, leadership is more than a set of tools to help us gain influence and grab power. The gospel requires that we lay down our lives for others and use our influence to help the marginalized because of Christ’s redeeming love for us.

The last question (ii) is the only one which is not primarily concerned with strengths. Subordinates, especially bright, young, and ambitious ones, tend to mold themselves after a forceful boss. There is, therefore, nothing more corrupting and more destructive in an organization than a forceful but basically corrupt executive. Such a person might well operate effectively on their own; even within an organization, they might be tolerable if denied all power over others. But in a position of power within an organization, they destroy.

By themselves, character and integrity do not accomplish anything. But their absence faults everything else.

Drucker, Peter F. (2009-10-06). The Effective Executive (Harperbusiness Essentials) (p. 87). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Let’s be leaders who first find our strength in Christ—in our weakness he will be glorified, that the influence we have been given will be used to strengthen the weak, and we will then make our boast in Christ.