What if Everyone Managed Like Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Weaver?

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about Earl Weaver, the colorful Major League Baseball manager who recently died.

“When I was just a boy, long before I ran a social enterprise that bears Peter Drucker’s name and seeks to make organizations more effective, the word ‘manager’ meant one thing to me: Earl Weaver,” Wartzman writes.

“I always knew that Weaver, who was memorialized last weekend after passing away earlier this month at age 82, was as sharp as a pair of spikes,” he adds. “The skipper of my beloved hometown Baltimore Orioles, he guided the Birds over 17 years to six American League East titles, five 100-win seasons, four pennants and the 1970 world championship.

“What I didn’t grasp when I was growing up was that Weaver was a great ‘manager’ in the sense that I now appreciate the job description: as a motivator of talent, as a master of maximizing joint performance, as a deft practitioner of many of the lessons that Drucker (though he himself lent his counsel to the Cleveland Indians) taught.

Among these lessons: “Weaver knew how to coax the best not only from his most extraordinary athletes . . . but also those who had more modest, or at least circumscribed, gifts. The key: focusing on their strengths instead of their weaknesses.”

In its obituary of Weaver, the New York Times summed up the man’s genius: “He chose players to fill in the gaps around his stars, not necessarily for their overall ability or athleticism but for their isolated skills—a good outfield arm, base running speed, power—and then deployed them in situations where they were most likely to succeed.”

Recounts Wartzman: “After one of my Drucker Institute colleagues read that passage, he remarked, ‘Can you imagine what shape our economy would be in if every non-baseball manager did the same?’”