Peter Drucker vs. Sheryl Sandberg

Rick Wartzman
Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about an interesting take on Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, the hot new book by Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

Wartzman highlights a piece in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal by Jody Greenstone Miller, the co-founder of Business Talent Group. Sandberg “tells women with high aspirations that they need to ‘lean in’ at work—that is, assert themselves more,” Miller wrote. “It’s fine advice, but it misdiagnoses the problem. It isn’t any shortage of drive that leads those phalanxes of female Harvard Business School grads to opt out. It’s the assumption that senior roles have to consume their every waking moment.”

Miller went on to call for “a saner, more satisfying blend of the things that ambitious women want from work and life”—in part, by getting way from “the arbitrary notion that high-level work can be done only by people who work 10 or more hours a day, five or more days a week, 12 months a year. Why not just three days a week, or six hours a day, or 10 months a year?”

Wartzman points out that Peter Drucker would have “wholeheartedly concurred” with Miller’s analysis. In the industrial era, Drucker said, “the main measurement of productivity was how tired people were when they got home. Well, that’s not the measurement of productivity; that’s the measurement of incompetence. And we are doing that with knowledge work.”

“But in the end,” Wartzman adds, “the steps that Miller is calling for employers to take aren’t gender-specific. They are, rather, a potentially powerful formula for raising the productivity of all knowledge workers, regardless of whether they’re male or female.”