The First Important Thing: Manage Yourself
All management books, including those I have written, focus on managing other people. But you cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.
The most crucial and vital resource you have as an executive and as a manager is yourself; and your organization is not going to do better than you do yourself. So, the first thing to say about the development of a country like yours or companies like those represented in this room today is: development. That is a very general term. Development is, foremost, dependent on how much you get out of the one resource that is truly under your own command and control, namely: yourself. When I look at all the organizations I have worked with over a long life, there is a difference between the successful ones and the great majority who are, at best, mediocre. The difference is that the people who are running the successful ones manage themselves. They know their strengths – and it is amazing how few people really know what they are good at. You do not know it unless you work at finding out what you are good at.
Most of the people I know who have done an outstanding job, and the number is not very large, have systematically organized finding out what they are really good at. You do it, by the way, by using a very old method which has nothing to do with modern management and which goes back thousands of years. Whenever you do something of significance, whenever you are making an important decision, and especially whenever you are making a decision about people (that is your most important decision), usually you write down what you expect the results will be and nine months later or a year later, you look at it. And then you will see very very soon what you are good at. You will see very very soon where you need to learn, where you need to improve; and you can also see very, very soon where you are simply not gifted. There are no universal geniuses, but a person can be very good – I have seen people who can just look at a market and they understand it. They do not need any tools or research. But, they are very often hopeless when it comes to managing people, so find out what you are really good at and then make sure you place yourself where your strengths can produce results. Yes, one has to work at overcoming weaknesses. But even if you work very hard and you manage to become reasonably competent in an area in which you really are not gifted, you are not going to be a top producer. You are a top producer if you put yourself where your strengths are and if you work on developing your strengths.
The second thing is to pay a great deal of attention to how and where you place other people. Again, place people where their strengths can produce results. When you look at an organization, everybody has access to the same money. Money is totally impersonal, everybody has access to the same materials. What differentiates a successful organization from most others is the way they place their people. It is not only that they keep on developing their people, but first place them where the strengths of the people can produce results and where their weaknesses are irrelevant. And those are the first things to say that make the difference between being an outstanding performer and being mediocre or worse.
And one part, a very important part, and one cannot stress it enough in a country like yours which is trying to catch up and does not have too much time – you have maybe ten years – is to realize that the people at the top set the example. Your company may be very small, quite unimportant, but within that small company you, the executive, are exceedingly visible. Most management is by example and whenever you look at truly outstanding organizations there is one, very rarely more than one, maybe two, maybe even three, but I have yet to see one that has more people who set an example. And that also is tremendously convincing. Here is an executive who performs and then people know they can do it, too. Perhaps that is the most important area, especially in a new and small and growing organization, and in a country like yours which has to do so many  things at the same time because you have to catch up with most of the history of this century.
Ethics – The Mirror Test
This most important area may be the area of personal behavior, the quality area of ethics. I am always asked what I mean by that. The answer is a very, very old one; it goes back to the ancient Greeks. I call it the mirror test. Every morning when you look in the mirror, when you shave yourself or when you put on your lipstick: is the person you see in the mirror the person you want to see? Do you want to be the kind of the person you see? Maybe “ashamed” is too strong: are you uneasy because you cut corners, because you break your promises, because you bribe, because you do something for immediate short-term benefits? Are you that kind of a person? Do you want to see, in the mirror, what you actually see? That is the mirror test and it is vital, simply because you may be able to fool people outside your organization, but you cannot fool people inside your organization, and, as you behave, they will too. Well, perhaps not emulate you, but if you give the wrong example, you send the wrong signals. You will corrupt the whole organization. So management does not begin with the environment, and it does not begin with the company’s so-called competencies; it begins with managing yourself for performance and setting an example and that, perhaps, is the most important thing one can say.
After you have forced yourself to behave in the way you expect, you want to appear in the mirror; and especially after you have worked hard on putting the people in your organization where their strengths can really perform and where the things they do not have don’t really count. It does not really count that this person is not technically superior if he or she is in a position where there are no technical requirements, but that you have a person who really knows how to work with people. Let me say that I do not think anybody who does not know how to do this can learn it. Yes, if you know how to do it, you can greatly improve, you can acquire techniques, you can learn this or that important tool, but you have to start off with an ability. Ability is even the wrong word; you need the basic attitude of respect for people and interest in people. I am not referring to “be nice”. The boss from whom I learned the most, many years ago when I was a very young man, was editor-in-chief of a newspaper at which I had just started, and I do not think that I made a very good career of it. I do not think that in the four years of working for him he ever said one word of praise, yet he respected my work. He could be very nasty and he was: he forced me to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, and I had incredible respect for him because he applied the same discipline to himself. However, he was not a friend; he was not a nice person, he was distant and aloof and demanding, but he knew how to get people to perform. And so the first thing to do is to manage yourself.
(to be continued)
[LECTURE BY PETER DRUCKER ON THE OCCASION OF THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE IEDC]