Moving leadership to orchestration

Drucker had the foresight to define the difference between what is management and what is leadership. He said management was ensuring that the staff were doing something correctly, whereas, leadership was seeing that staff were doing the right thing.

Drucker compared the role as a leader to the role of a conductor in an orchestra. A conductor guided the professional orchestra, with minimal direction, leaving the professional players as masters of their own domain.

He was very directive in what he considered leaders should do. Drucker said staff had a right to say ‘yes” every day to three questions:

  • Do people notice what you did?
  • Are you treated with dignity and respect by everyone you encounter?
  • Are you given things you need – education, training, encouragement and support?

When your staff can answer ‘Yes” to these three questions an exceptional environment has been achieved. Drucker believed such a culture was attainable and very desirable. He often talked about how organisations managed superior performance through embracing desirable values e.g. Alcoa’s zero accident value.

Action: Look to your mentor and seek guidance on areas where your leadership style can be improved.

Outstanding performance is inconsistent with a fear of failure.

Drucker knew that great leaders often failed . However,he also indicated that great leaders experienced significant and frequent success. Great leaders recognised failure earlier than their peers and were faster to press the abandonment “button”. So much is talked about by famous entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, yet, in many organisations the fear of failure pervades all thinking. This fear of failure is no more evident than in government and not –for-profit agencies.

It is important to recognise earlier on if a decision was wrong and make corrective action or abandon the initiative. Those who make decisions and have more winners than unsuccessful initiatives should be championed as more valuable than the managers who only back a few winners.

Action: Monitor those projects that have failed and promote them as good learning experiences. Promote the notion that a decision made, even if wrong, is better than no decision.

Decision making requires an understanding of the decision making process

Drucker realised that decision making, in the corporate environment, was subject to many pressures. He believed managers needed to be educated in the process to ensure they made enough decisions, were not afraid of failure and knew when no decision was required. Drucker said unnecessary decisions was the same as unnecessary surgery; most undesirable.

He analysed the decision making process into a decision making tree:

  • Action is needed
  • No action is required
  • Further investigation is required
  • Action: Take a crash course in Peter Drucker’s wisdom by reading “The Definitive Drucker”1


Self Renewal – Safe Haven

In preaching self renewal Drucker was saying to all of us you need to have balance, other interests, passions, hobbies outside work as well as a hunger for new management concepts.

You will be a better more balanced leader if you lead a full life. Drucker told a story about a well respected CEO who was, unknown to the organisation, a recognised international Egyptologist. In fact the CEO had kept his other passion so separate that it was only at the funeral that his work colleagues discovered this other side to him.

Drucker realised the importance of balance. Leaders functioned better, were more positive and easier to work with if they had another passion outside work.

Action: Nurture and grow your safe haven now.


1 Elizabeth Haas Edersheim “The definitive Drucker McGraw-Hill 2006