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March 2, 2015

Weekly Lessons in Leadership

Katherine Baldwin

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a_year_with_peter_drucker_book_cover_80I've never been a leader of an organization and I've always shied away from management roles in my journalism career, preferring to stay "at the coal face."

Nor have I ever been overly interested in management theory or the structure of organizations. But I am really interested in concepts like purpose and meaning, in the idea of playing to my strengths, and in making a contribution to society. And I’d like to learn how to prioritize my To-Do List and manage my time better. I'm also really open to being mentored or coached by those who've gone before. Those are all reasons why I really enjoyed this book.

Joseph A. Maciariello condenses the management teachings and writings of management guru Peter Drucker – his colleague for 26 years – into a 52-week coaching program that has the potential to benefit a really broad audience. You don't have to be a manager or leader to learn from it.

"A Year with Peter Drucker" covers topics as diverse as navigating change, solving society's big problems, achieving potential, and prioritizing the important over the urgent. And its structure means you can jump to the sections that most interest you and skip over those that aren't so relevant.

I was particularly keen on the final two sections of the book: developing oneself from success to significance, and character and legacy. I've been in a process of transition for a while now – moving out of traditional news journalism into doing work I find more fulfilling and that I believe could be more beneficial to those around me, including different forms of writing and teaching. So I loved hearing about the importance of identifying your strengths, focusing on the unique contribution you can make, and living and working in an intentional way, with an eye on your legacy.

In this clip, from our review of this book, we hear how Drucker himself made career decisions based on his principles.

Listen to the full Book Insight in the Mind Tools Club ¦ Install Flash Player.

"A Year with Peter Drucker" made me more determined to align my work with my values and to keep thinking about the big picture and the long game. I’m convinced we all have a unique contribution to make – sometimes it just takes a while to discover what that is. The good news is that what's gone before is never wasted – it shapes us and gives us the tools to succeed in our next endeavor.

I also really enjoyed the section on setting your sights on the important, not the urgent. This is a classic time management technique and one that a lot of authors have written about. But, from my experience, it takes a lot of practice to know how to prioritize, to say "No" when we really need to, and to balance short-term actions with long-term goals.

So I'm always happy to read more on the topic, and particularly to hear from someone who clearly knew how to manage his time effectively, judging from the 39 books and countless articles he wrote.

Another highlight of this book for me was Drucker's interview with James Osborne, national commander of The Salvation Army. Drucker held The Salvation Army in high esteem, calling it the most effective organization in the United States. I'd never known much about its inner workings, so it was great to hear how it's structured and how it's survived for so many years by applying some key management principles that businesses would be wise to follow.

Drucker praised the Army for the way it evaluates performance and defines results, and for how it abandons projects quickly when it sees they're not working. He also liked the way it allocates its funds, based on urgent need first, while hoping that donations come in for less urgent things. The resources generally do arrive because people like to support organizations that deliver results and effectively meet a need in society.

Corporations may require a stronger balance sheet, but they can take a leaf out of the Army's book when it comes to focusing on results and making swift decisions about how to spend limited resources.

"A Year with Peter Drucker" is a really useful manual for anyone who's in charge of an organization and wants to learn to lead more effectively, as well as for individuals who want to get more out of their lives and make a lasting contribution. Even if you don't work through all the 52 "weeks" of the book, I'm sure you'll find this a thought-provoking and challenging read.

How can you make sure you're playing to your strengths and putting your unique abilities to their best use? Join in the discussion below!

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7 comments on “Weekly Lessons in Leadership”

  1. Sounds like a must-read!
    You asked: "How can you make sure you’re playing to your strengths and putting your unique abilities to their best use?"
    First of all, you must know what your unique abilities and strengths are.
    Then you should also take into account where your passion is and what you're truly enthusiastic about.
    Lastly, display your aptitude and passion in projects that you are involved in - it's better to show than to tell.

    1. Indeed, a must read. Yolandemt's reply is apt. However, as coach, I find that people overrate their strengths so I recommend that another who knows you validates the declared strengths.

    2. Hi Trendythoughts,
      I agree that it is important to get an outside view on our perception of ourselves to ensure we get a more balanced perspective. We can over-exaggerate our strengths and minimize or even ignore our weaknesses!

  2. It's great if you can get feedback from another reliable source, Trendythoughts. It is indeed so that people often overrate their strengths. I once worked with a person who declared himself the most practical, handy person ever. I cringed every time I had to do a project with him - he was in reality extremely unpractical and couldn't plan ahead at all. To try and let someone like that know that what they think is a strength is in reality a weakness is quite a difficult feat!

    1. YolandeMT, did you tell that person that what he thought was a strength was actually a weakness? I am really bad at telling people the honest truth sometimes because I am afriad of hurting their feelings. How did you tell him if you did? Thanks!

    2. Hi Sam,
      I know how hard it can be to deliver difficult feedback to someone, particularly when they are oblivious to any problem. Yet, if you avoid this, the problem persists and you end up continuing to be stressed and frustrated by it all.

      If I were in that situation, I would use the ideas outlined in the Situation - Behavior - Impact Feedback Tool article:

      This can help to deliver clear and effective feedback.


    3. Sam, to be honest, I didn't. I wasn't his manager; as a colleague I didn't feel that it would be my 'place' to tell him. We also didn't have that much to do with one another, so it would probably not have been worth my while to go to the trouble of telling him & running the risk of having an irate colleague if it really didn't have that big an impact on my job.
      I understand what you're saying about hurting people's feelings. I don't think there's one formula (wish there was!) for telling people something - it depends on your relationship, that person's profile, both your personalities etc.
      Hope I'm making sense here?

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