Joe’s Journal: On Realists vs. Cynics
“Integrity may be difficult to define, but what constitutes lack of integrity is of such seriousness as to disqualify a person for a managerial position. A person should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The person who always knows exactly what people cannot do, but never sees anything they can do, will undermine the spirit of her organization. An executive should be a realist; and no one is less realistic than the cynic.
A person should not be appointed if that person is more interested in the question ‘Who is right?’ than in the question ‘What is right?’ Management . . . should never promote a person who has shown that he or she is afraid of strong subordinates. It should never put into a management job a person who does not set high standards for his or her own work.”
–Peter F. Drucker
This reminds me of Peter Drucker’s foreword to Bob Greenleaf’s book Servant Leadership. Drucker said in that piece that he and Greenleaf shared the same basic beliefs and values, but they went about their work very differently. Bob was always out to change the individual, to make him or her into a different person. Greenleaf was a moralist, Drucker said. But Drucker was a pragmatist; he was interested in consequences and actions. He was more concerned with behavior and practices and not so interested in ideas of “good” and “bad.”
[EXPAND More]Of course, the world needs both types of people. It needs a Socrates, and Bob was truly a wise man. Drucker was more like the Sophists. He said, “I only know that I’m not as effective a preacher as I am a teacher, and the two are very different.”
Integrity is difficult to define. For Drucker, integrity had moral roots, but he was less concerned with the moral roots and more concerned with actions. He was concerned with what happens to people in their everyday lives, in the workplace and so on.
In this passage he discusses some practices that help to create the best opportunities for effective leadership and work. This is really interesting to me. He said that management should appoint people who have high standards for their own work because they serve as examples; their personal characteristics and their work ethic guide others’ choices.
He went on to say that an executive should be a realist, but that it is different than being a cynic. When you’re cynical about people, you are cynical about what they can do and what they can be—and you’re cynical about the kind of practices you can expect of them.
Drucker essentially suggested that the real mark of integrity is how people behave when faced with pressure or temptation. I actually think the formation of character is a lifelong process. Drucker came to think so, too.