As an intellectual disciple of Drucker, I am very excited to share these posts with other fans of “Father of Modern Management”. The title of my paper is “Leadership Lessons from the Stories of Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Shaw: What Fiction can teach Executives about Effectiveness”.
All the top ten finalist, including mine at number 9, can be downloaded here at the Drucker Challenge website.
One of the keys about leadership is lifelong learning. In the months since I submitted my essay earlier this fall, I have learned and grown a tremendous amount more. One of the books I’ve read is “Leadership Excellence: The Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century” (2012) by Basketball Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Pat Williams. William’s book is a synthesized work of all the best leadership literature covering ancient classics like Lao-tzu’s “Tao Teh Ching”, “Arthashastra” by Chanakya of India and of course the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
In his book Williams cites leadership lessons from both Shakespeare and Steinbeck. In what he calls his “Second Side of Leadership-Communication”, Williams writes of the power of narrative in Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel, East of Eden (1952). In his fictional work, Steinbeck states that “If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. And I here make a rule- a great and interesting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting- only the deeply personal and familiar” (Williams, p. 98). Later in his chapter on the “Sixth Side of Leadership-Boldness”, Williams writes of the English ‘Bard’ “William Shakespeare offers great leadership advice in his paly Julius Caesar… You cannon argue with his leadership logic”. Quoting the infamous character, Marcus Junius Brutus, Williams echoes the assassin’s speech, “On such a full seas are we now afloat; and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our venture” (Williams, p. 252). Boldness, or the willingness to act as alluded to by Brutus, is one of the characteristics that set leaders apart from followers; for leaders always go first.
In addition to the bibliography listed at the end of my essay, I would also highly encourage you to check “Leadership Excellence” as well as out two newly released books by adamant “Druckerites”. The first is titled “The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker” (November, 2013) by William A. Cohen, Drucker’s first Executive Ph.D graduate. While this book is obviously meant for application in the immediate, the second work, “Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward Focused Mindset” (October, 2013) by Bruce Rosenstein is intended to help you live into your desired coming reality. I highly recommend both works, as well as all the authors’ previous books on Peter F. Drucker.
Initiative is usually indicator of influence. It is therefore with this backdrop, that I’ll continue my essay with the managerial contextualization of the Irish playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics, George Bernard Shaw. Enjoy part 3.
George Bernard Shaw: Man’s Continual Improvement
“Knowledge people must take responsibility for their own development and placement… You have to reinvent yourself.” (Drucker, 2004. pg. 27)
Man and Superman:
While George Bernard Shaw’s play Man and Superman (1960) turns the typical Don Juan story on its’ head by having a female pursuer, the ideas of genetic adaptation in hopes of designing the perfect male specimen through preceding generations, takes what Drucker meant with the intellectual and social and applies it to the physical desire of man’s continual improvement. Tying the themes of Shakespeare together with that of Steinbeck, Shaw’s letter to Arthur Bingham Walkley in the introduction of Man and Superman, the Irish author states that “Philosophically, Don Juan is a man who, though gifted enough to be exceptionally capable of distinguishing between good and evil, follows his own instincts without regard to the common, statute, or canon law; and therefor , whilst gaining the ardent sympathy of our rebellious instincts, finds himself in mortal conflict with existing institutions” (pg. 239). While romantic in its nature, Man and Superman confronts leadership lessons such as sacrificial love, continuous improvement, and completing a mission through a set of objectives.
Arms and the Man:
The thematic elements of this second play by Shaw are inherent of his philosophy concerning social issues and specifically war. Shaw, like Drucker, was well aware of the atrocities of war resulting from dictatorship. In Shaw’s story, the author uses mercenaries, deception, and manipulation in his plot-line to show how what Drucker called “mis-leaders” thrive on lording their power over people. Drucker knew all too well the horrors of a dictatorship. In his landmark book Management Drucker offered his solution for preventing the tyranny of mis-leadership. He writes that “the alternative to autonomous institutions that function and perform is not freedom. It is totalitarian tyranny… If the institutions of our pluralist society of institutions do not perform in responsible autonomy we will not have individualism and a society in which there is a chance for people to fulfill themselves… Tyranny substitutes one absolute boss for the pluralism of competing institutions. It substitutes terror for responsibility… Performing, responsible management is the alternative to tyranny and our only protection against it” (Drucker, 2004. pg. 12). In Shaw’s first play, we see the desire for relationship and perfection between two people. In this second story by the great playwright, we see again elements of the romantic couple in the first. However, instead of two lovebirds, the need for relationship, continual improvement, and autonomy are based at the societal level.
Conclusion: Innovation, Inspiration, and Imagination
“Innovation and entrepreneurship are thus needed in any society… they promise to keep the economy, industry, public-service, or business flexible and self-renewing” (Drucker, 1985. pg.254).
In Peter Drucker’s book Innovation and Entrepreneurship (1985), Drucker’s thinking again showed decades before his time. The basis of the book is that through innovation, inspiration, and imagination, the individual will propel themselves toward new knowledge, which would result in the application and advancement of organizations thus moving a society forward.
Moving from the Individual to a Society:
“In an entrepreneurial society individuals face a tremendous challenge, a challenge they need to exploit as an opportunity: the need for continuous learning and relearning… The emergence of the entrepreneurial society may be a major turning point in history” (Drucker, 1985. pg. 263-265).
Drucker encouraged management’s foundation be built on the responsibility leaders have for making life better, for both the individual and society. This happens in part through accountability, performance, and measurable results. But having a skilled hand and enlighten head are not enough. Leaders need to have a heart for their people. When executives are equipped for effective management and ethical leadership, not only through technical training, but also with inspiration from the liberal arts and supplemented with humanistic insights from fiction literature, our leaders will be able to raise their people’s vision, improve performance, and increase an organizations potential.