“There is one prerequisite for managing the second half of life;
You must begin doing so long before you enter it.”
– Peter Drucker
Peter Drucker brought an insightful voice to management studies in the 20th century. One of my favorite articles by Drucker is a Harvard Business Review piece called “Managing Oneself.”
Drucker argues that there is an explicit connection between excellence in management and the cultivation of understanding of oneself. To extend this, we might argue that effective leadership begins with effective self-leadership. Or, put as a question…
How can I lead others well if I am not first leading myself well?
A commitment to such a question leads to critical self-management questions. Drucker raised the following self-management questions in his article:
- What are my strengths?
- How do I perform?
- How do I learn?
- What are my values?
- Where do I belong?
- What should I contribute?
Of these questions, I would argue that knowing ones strengths and values is a top priority for leaders.
Attending to Our Strengths
Regarding strengths, Drucker notes, “To do things well, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself,” and “only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.” Understanding strengths allows us to build on the positive dimensions already present in our lives rather than working to improve deficits. On this point Drucker notes, “It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” In the pursuit of leadership excellence, building on strengths is a first order priority for those engaged in self-leadership.
Attending to Our Values
But strengths are not the only story. Strengths must be grounded in the things that matter most to us and our communities—our values. On this point, Drucker notes, “What one does well—even very well and successfully—may not fit with one’s value system.” Strengths and skills must be guided by values. Values should form the basis for understanding and applying our strengths. Strengths applied without values can quickly lead to ethical and moral violations in leadership. Strengths applied in congruence with deeply held values provide a basis for our natural talents to serve rather than abuse the communities of which we are part.
Effective leadership begins with effective self-leadership! Are you attending to your strengths? Are you attending to your values?
I’d love to hear how you have engaged effective self-management and self-leadership in your life and work!