Joe’s Journal: Integrity as the Essence of Management

“Morality, to have any meaning at all, must not be exhortation, sermon or good intentions. It must be practices. Specifically, the focus of the organization must be on performance. The first requirement of the spirit of performance is high performance standards, for the group as well as for each individual. The focus of the organization must be on opportunities rather than on problems.The decisions that affect people—their placement, pay, promotion, demotion and severance—must express the values and beliefs of the organization. Finally, in its people decisions, management must demonstrate that it realizes that integrity is one absolute requirement of any manager, the one quality that he has to bring with him and cannot be expected to acquire later on.”

—Peter F. Drucker

Peter Drucker set a high moral tone in his work on management such that some believe his advice to be unachievable in practice.

When criticized, he said he was trying to establish the norm, and realized only too well that life and work more often than not departed from the norm. In his consulting relationships, I believe he worked over long periods of time with a number of people he considered virtuous—people who were trying to move their organizations closer to the desired norm.

How did Drucker judge virtue? He did so primarily by how people were treated in an organization, especially on the fundamental people decisions spoken of in this passage. Drucker was moral, but he was not a moralist. He was not among those who were trying to establish heaven on earth by his preaching. Organizations are tough places, particularly in competitive industries and during tough economic times. And performance and results are very important.

Although Drucker held deep personal, philosophical and religious beliefs, it seemed to me that they can all be summed up as “love thy neighbor”—even when the love required is tough love. Drucker was very concerned with the results of a person’s work, but he was also very concerned with what the person was becoming as the result of his or her work.

Highly spirited organizations were his goal because the whole they produce is greater than the sum of each individual’s efforts. This is only possible in the moral realm. And that is why Drucker considered “integrity” to be the “touchstone”—the very essence—of management.

Joe Maciariello