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Drucker: top quotes on strengths

Submitted by on Friday, 16 January 20092 Comments

Drucker: Top Quotes on Strengths

It is now over forty years since Peter Drucker wrote The Effective Executive yet, in that time, we have seen very little movement away from the ‘weakness-based’ approach still practised in many schools and organisations (‘you are strong at something, so that is fine; you are weak at something, therefore focus your energy on fixing that weakness’), and which stay with us as we move into adult life.

Strengths make the difference

Drucker, of course, urged us to move away from that flawed paradigm.

He did so not with any research but simply through working with thousands of executives and managers. Yet still we see systemic efforts to root out weaknesses in companies and schools. In companies, these weaknesses are disguised as ‘competency gaps’ and there is some sense that ‘closing’ them is good, irrespective of an individual’s strengths. Despite research showing that this approach actually leads to poorer results, the practice still continues.

It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.

Peter Drucker

In schools, the focus is still on improving poorer grades rather than attaining excellence in areas of strength.

So pervasive has this practice been that our entire definition of work, life and human relationships has been built around it. We rarely question the weakness-based approach nor may we even be aware of it. The acceptance of work as enduring drudgery, demonstrating willpower and eternally fixing weaknesses to ‘improve ourselves’ has perhaps been hardwired in us from our time at school. As Einstein put it ‘the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.’

Managers who would like to change this paradigm could do worse than starting with ‘Making strength productive’ in The Effective Executive. Here is what Drucker had to say about strengths from The Effective Executive and other writings:

“Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer.”


“The idea that there are well-rounded people, people who have only strengths and no weaknesses, is a prescription for mediocrity if not for incompetence… strong people always have strong weaknesses too… where there are peaks, there are valleys.”


“The task of an executive is not to change human beings. Rather as the Bible tells us in the parable of the talents, the task is to multiply the performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals.”


“A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The man who always knows what people cannot do, but never sees what they can do, will undermine the spirit of the organisation. Of course, a manager should have a clear grasp of the limitations of his people, but he should see these as limitations on what they can do, and as a challenge to them to do better.”


“Develop your people. Focus on their strengths. Then make high demands based on a person’s strengths. Finally, periodically view their performance.”


“Performing organisations enjoy what they’re doing.”


Peter Drucker Quotations on Strengths


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