Joe’s Journal: On Managing Oneself

Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.

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“Managing oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves profoundly challenges social structure. For every existing society, even the most ‘individualist’ one, takes two things for granted, if only subconsciously: Organizations outlive workers, and most people stay put. Managing oneself is based on the very opposite realities.” – Peter F. Drucker

As knowledge workers we must take responsibility for our own growth and development. This requires that we know our strengths and values. It is not surprising to find Tom Rath’s 2007 book, Strengthfinders 2.0, is No. 1 this week on The Wall Street Journal bestselling list of business books. It follows a line of books on this topic that have sold extremely well. Bernard Haldane’s ideas in the 1940s started us off; then followed What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Don’t laugh! It is in its 11th edition and has sold over 8 million copies. Peter Drucker has also emphasized strengths for years, especially in The Effective Executive, one of the most influential management books of all time.

“Don’t buck the market” is a saying on Wall Street, and I believe there is truth here; the subject of self-management is more than a fad or a bubble. All of us have strengths even if they were developed out of extreme weakness—for example, those who are likely to be the most compassionate in an area such as alcohol abuse are often reformed alcoholics themselves. And some of the best doctors I know have been severely ill at one or more points in their life. We are all endowed with gifts and they do change over time; the idea is to seek them out and then develop them with all our might. That is where we are likely to be happiest. Of course, we may have strengths in an area for which we have no supporting values. In that case, we are faced with a choice—to do well in the eyes of family and friends or to please our inner self. What helps here is our mortality. We can’t take anything with us, so we might as well do what we are passionate about and hope that it pays the bills. If not, we can try to do it as a second career. I know that lurking inside of me is a great tenor, but I am the only one who knows (not good).

Then comes the Drucker question, “What do I want to be remembered for?” Making another million? Or helping others? It’s up to us. These are heavy responsibilities, and in the face of tough times we may not have much choice. The trick is to be prepared and wait for the right opportunity.

Finally, do not underestimate how difficult it is for people who want to move from success to significance once they have enough money to do so. The right opportunity may require you to obtain some mentoring. So, if you are in this position, look for an experienced mentor. Best wishes.

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Those who are obsessed with the latest lists of this week’s or this month’s bestselling business books would be well-advised to assign much greater value to the lists of bestselling business books during the last five or ten years. As Joe Maciariello points out, Tom Rath’s book was first published by Gallup Press in 2007.

Joe Macieriello

Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at


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