MLARI Update for July: Leadership Beyond the Walls

Welcome to summer!

At MLARI, we are often wrestling with big, philosophical topics addressed by Drucker’s work: concepts like freedom, power and authority, and questions of ethics and values. Yet there is always the question of how to put these big ideas into practice. What does MLA actually look like?

This drives much of what we produce at MLARI, because it is not easy to simply show what MLA in practice looks like. One example of this is Drucker’s call for “Leadership Beyond the Walls.” Here Drucker argues that leaders of institutions must not only take care of their own organizations, but they must also take care of the common good. In Management (Revised Edition), Drucker says that, while single-purpose institutions have become remarkably effective because they have such a narrow focus, this has led to a lack of concern for the common good. As a result, nobody is minding the needs of the community: “How to balance the two, the common good and the special purpose of the institution is the question we must answer.” If we don’t do this, we will destroy community. But, “if at the same time institutions abandon their single purpose or even allow that purpose to weaken, the new pluralism will destroy itself through lack of performance.”

Thus leaders (and not just those at the top) must take responsibility beyond the walls of their organization. What does this look like? Drucker likens this to a symphony orchestra, where each musician contributes by playing their own part. But, says Drucker, “there is also the score, the community. And only if each individual instrument contributes to the score is there music. Otherwise there is only noise.”

We all at CiAM can be leaders beyond our walls. How can you, in your given role, or as part of your community, be not just a fine performer, but also a contributor to the score? How can we keep the symphony together as a team? How can we help orchestrate a functioning society of institutions in a world that so badly needs a balance between individual concerns and the needs of the community?


Peter F. Drucker with Joseph A. Maciariello, Management (Revised Edition), HarperCollins, 2008

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