Mingle: to bring or mix together or with something else usually without fundamental loss of identity; to move about, as in a group
Call this a thought for a Saturday.
Earlier this week, I spoke to a group of about 40 department heads at an area hospital (a Medical Center). These were department heads and their top colleagues. It was a wonderful session, and the room was absolutely alive with conversation. (I love it when a room is so alive!).
Sitting in the front row, front and center, absolutely engaged in all of the events of the session, was the CEO of the Medical Center. There she was, “mingling with the common folks.”
(The common folks – you know, those who actually get all the work done in an organization).
The management and leadership literature of the last couple of decades shouts this principle as loudly as possible. Leaders need to “manage by walking around,” need to be accessible, need to knock down those silos. People do better when they mingle, when they constantly interact, and people do a lot better when one of those regular “minglers” is the top leader.
And, I hate to tell you this – but a common refrain I hear from group after group goes like this: “This is great material. I wish my boss were here to hear this.” In other words, mingling by the boss with the common folks is far too rare. (Do leaders never read any of this stuff?!)
So, kudos to this particular CEO. And I suspect the energy in the room was partly the energy that comes from a group that knows that their top leader cares about them, pays attention to them, listens to them… “mingles” with them.
So, if you are a leader, remember this simple counsel:
“Mingle with the common folks.”
And, if you are a leader and your folks think you are inaccessible, distant, not available, never seen… well, you’ve got some changing to do!
My blogging colleague, Bob Morris, made the point that actually there are no “common” people (see comments below). I certainly agree. I was trying to make that exact point, and maybe I should have been a little more elegant in my word choice. And, Bob is right, the CEO at the Medical Center fully understands that the entire team is made up of people with an uncommon commitment to provide the best care for the people who come through their doors.
Sadly, far too many leaders do view themselves as “above” others, and we sense this by their inaccessibility, their distance, their failure to interact, their “absence” from so many opportunities to mingle with members of the entire team. Thus, I used the term “the common folks” to make the point. In an ideal world, leaders would understand this, and there would not be the all-too-often-heard criticisms by members of teams that their leaders are not as accessible as they wish they were, as they need them to be.
(I also wrote about this in an earlier blog post: Natalie Portman Reminds Us Well – There Are No Little People.)
Here is the latest post by Joseph A. Maciariello featured in the Joe’s Journal series at the Drucker Exchange (Dx) sponsored by the Drucker Institute. The Drucker Exchange (the Dx) is a platform for bettering society through effective management and responsible leadership. It is produced by the Drucker Institute, a think tank and action tank based at Claremont Graduate University that was established to advance the ideas and ideals of Peter F. Drucker, the father of modern management.
To check out a wealth of resources and subscribe to its online newsletter, please click here.
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“In his 1943 novel, published in English as Magister Ludi (1949), Hermann Hesse anticipated the sort of world the humanists want—and its failure. The book depicts a brotherhood of intellectuals, artists and humanists who live a life of splendid isolation, dedicated to the Great Tradition, its wisdom and its beauty. But the hero, the most accomplished Master of the Brotherhood, decides in the end to return to the polluted, vulgar, turbulent, strife-torn, money-grubbing reality—for his values are only fool’s gold unless they have relevance to the world. Post-capitalist society needs the educated person even more than any earlier society did, and access to the great heritage of the past will have to be an essential element. But liberal education must enable the person to understand reality and master it.”
– Peter F. Drucker
Peter Drucker is making the case in this passage for what constitutes an “educated person” in the knowledge society, and for Servant Leadership, an application of values emanating out of the Great Tradition to the world of work.
Drucker called management a liberal art, and claimed that it could liberate the humanities that have been in decline in American universities. The result has been a move away from majors in the humanities to majors in business and other “applied disciplines.” But the educated person clearly requires both.
My co-author, Karen Linkletter, and I wrote the book Drucker’s Lost Art of Management to make the case that management is indeed a liberal art. Our case was developed from a close read of the methodology employed by Drucker and the ends he sought. He was educated both formally and informally in the classical tradition, and his doctorate was in international law—professional training infused with the liberal arts.
Drucker applied his brilliance “to the polluted, vulgar, turbulent, strife-torn, money-grubbing reality” of developing a society of functioning organizations, where leaders act as servants of their organizations and of society. He said it beautifully in a 2004 radio interview with Tom Ashbrook:
“I see functioning societies as a bulwark against the threat of totalitarianism, and they depend on management for their performance. The present tendency to look at management by itself is nonsense. Management exists for the sake of an organization. It is the servant of the organization. And any management that forgets that is mismanagement and will lead their organization down pretty fast—misleaders destroy their organization. Management and administrators are servants.”
Servant Leadership has a long tradition that has been made popular by Robert Greenleaf’s 1970 book, Servant Leadership. Drucker and Greenleaf were good friends, and while Greenleaf was a moralist, Drucker was a pragmatist. Yet Drucker’s classical education in the liberal arts led him to what his friend Theodore Levitt called Drucker’s “deep preoccupation with morality.” Here we see the convergence of Drucker’s work promoting Servant Leadership and his training in the Great Tradition.
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Joseph A. Maciariello is the Horton Professor of Management & Director of Research and Education, The Drucker Institute. You can contact him directly at email@example.com.