I'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.
"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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