The Fab Five

No, this article is not about the five freshmen who were starters on the University of Michigan basketball team that lost NCAA championship games, to Duke in 1992 (71–51) and to North Carolina in 1993 (77–71).

Pewter Drucker

However, it should be noted that Peter Drucker was an avid sports fan, especially of football and basketball, and frequently praised the leadership of coaches such as John Wooden and Bill Walsh with whom he also became close personal friends.

Here is an especially interesting article featured by the Drucker Exchange (Dx) in which some of the insights that Adam Bryant shares in his recently published book, The Corner Office, are juxtaposed with comparable thoughts expressed by Peter Drucker years (sometimes decades) ago. To check out all the resources at the Drucker Institute and sign up for its free online newsletter, please click here.

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Earlier this week [April 22, 2011], we explored how embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has struck out as a leader. But what are the qualities that the best leaders exhibit?

Adam Bryant

One intriguing set of answers comes courtesy of Adam Bryant, who pens the “Corner Office” column for the New York Times and whose book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, has just been published.

Bryant posits that the highly successful leaders he has interviewed all share five distinct qualities, as well as look for them in those that they hire. As noted below, we find that each of these characteristics resonates with Peter Drucker’s insights, as well. They are:

1. Passionate curiosity

Bryant: The most effective leaders “ask big-picture questions. They wonder why things work the way they do and whether those things can be improved upon. They want to know people’s stories, and what they do.”

Drucker: “The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.”

2. Battle-hardened confidence

Bryant: Great leaders display “a concept known as ‘locus of control.’ . . . People who have it will take on, and own, any assignment thrown their way. They say those words that are music to a manager’s ears: ‘Got it. I’m on it.’”

Drucker: “Truman not only said, ‘I am the President now, and the buck stops here,’ but he also asked, ‘What are the key tasks?’”

3. Team smarts

Bryant: “The most effective executives are more than team players. They understand how teams work and how to get the most out of the group.”

Drucker: “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make weaknesses irrelevant.”

4. A simple mind-set

Bryant: “Most senior executives want the same thing from people who present to them: Be concise, get to the point, make it simple.”

Drucker: “Complicated controls do not work. They confuse. . . . When [an employee] stumbles over complexities, ambiguities or subtleties, redesign for simplicity.”

5. Fearlessness

Bryant: “When chief executives talk about executives on their staffs who are fearless, there is a reverence in their voices. They wish they could bottle it and pass it out to all their employees. They’re looking for calculated and informed risk-taking, but mostly they want people to do things — and not just what they’re told to do.”

Drucker: “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

Which of these five qualities do you think is the most important in a leader? Are there any others you’d add to the list?



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