Business leadership according to the man who invented it

There’s a lot written about leadership but to truly understand the subject we should take advice from the man who has been described as “the founder of modern management”, Peter Drucker. Many consider him to be the educator and author whose books contributed to the foundations of the modern business corporation. He died in 2005, but his thoughts on leadership are as valid today as they were when he was alive.

  • Peter Drucker said that strategic planning is the first priority of any leader. He said that the leader should create the desired future for the company.
  • Do what needs to be done. As a leader don’t look for what you want to do. Instead, Drucker said that a leader should look for what needs to be done. Pick the important things and, of the things that would make a difference, then decide which would be right for you to do. Don’t take on things that you aren’t good at. Delegate to others. One of his most famous quotes makes the point well: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
  • Be driven by a mission and make sure people know what you are trying to do. Importantly, know how to come up with a mission.
  • Know how to say no. The pressure on leaders to do a 1,000 things at once is intense. Don’t suffocate yourself under a pile of tasks. Don’t always say yes otherwise you’ll get nothing important done.
  • Never try to be an expert if you are not. You’ll waste hours and days on things that you’re not very good at. Don’t think you need to be good at everything just because you’re the boss. Build on your strengths and find strong people to do the other necessary tasks.
  • It’s not about charisma, it’s about effectiveness. Drucker said there is too much talk and too much emphasis on the personality of a leader these days and not enough on effectiveness, consistency and trustworthiness. According to Drucker, character and ethical behaviour are crucial for the leader. He once said: “Leadership is not magnetic personality that can just as well be a glib tongue.”
  • Model military leaders. Peter Drucker had great respect for the emphasis the military put on leaders being positive role models. He liked their focus on commitment and taking care of people.
  • Leaders should be marketers. Drucker said that leaders should be focused on the customer. He said that a leader should be concerned about how customers view the company and its products or services.

At the end of the day, what leaders do is to lead people and not organisations. Drucker had some wise words on that subject as well: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

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