Byron's Babbles

From Delegation to Leadership

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on June 21, 2015

1396979643-keys-becoming-better-business-leader“[Henry] Ford’s failure [1927-1944] was not the result of personality or temperament. It was first and foremost the result of his refusal to accept managers and management as necessary, as a necessity based on task and function rather than in “delegation” from the “boss.” ~ Peter Drucker, 2008

This week’s entry in Maciariello (2014) A Year with Peter Drucker offers us examples from three great innovators in our history. These innovators are Wilson Greatbatch, Andy Grove, and Henry Ford. First of all that’s a pretty powerful trio of innovators to learn from. Greatbatch is known for developing the heart pacemaker, and then later developing the lithium iodide battery that allowed the pacemaker to go decades without battery replacement. Thus eliminating many operations for patients needing pacemakers. Of course, we know Andy Grove as one of the founders of Intel Corporation in 1968. Finally, I don’t really think I need to give an introduction to the third side of the triangle, Henry Ford.

In this week’s entry, Andy Grove discussed how in the beginning he was just one step away from everything, and now is many steps away from everything (Maciariello, 2014). He discussed how everything in the beginning was in his head. People in their initial group, while innovating, gravitated to the roles that fit them. The team built itself up and roles that were needed gravitated to appropriate team members (Maciariello, 2014). Then as the organization grew, however, tribes began to form and power struggles began to occur. This is when Grove realized he needed to shift from innovator to executive (Maciariello, 2014). year-with-peter-drucker

0706_170_01It was interesting for me as I read this story of Andy Grove how much similarity there is to the situations I have experienced in working as a part of a team to turnaround two different schools. In both situations it has been necessary to let the talent gravitate to roles that fit. But now, after a year (that was the same time frame at both schools), it was necessary to take a step back and analyze what everyone was doing. In fact, we had a mini-summit this spring using the essential questions of: What are these people doing?; Are they doing the right things?; and, How do we all support our teachers in doing the right things for our students? That might seem like an easy task, but there are so many parts to making sure a school is operating efficiently and effectively. As an organization grows and develops, there is a tendency to look inward. The organization must recognize, however, that as it changes in size, load, and complexity there is a need for the roles of the people, particularly the leader, in the organization.

Additionally, we all know the story of Henry Ford as the greatest industrial innovator of all time. As the story goes, though, by 1927 the Ford Motor Company was a shambles. Really from 1927-1944, until Henry Ford II took the reigns, the company struggled mightily. In fact, Peter Drucker called it a “controlled experiment in mismanagement” (Maciariello, 2014, p. 198). Henry Ford, according to Maciariello (2014), provides us with a case study in executive mismanagement. Ford tested the hypothesis that as an organization grows it does not need professional leadership. Ford believed an organization should be run by a boss with helpers (Maciariello, 2014), not leaders. In other words, he believed in pushing tasks down to underlings to perform. In today’s lingo I call these the folks that are “email pushers.” Whatever is asked of them, they push the email to someone else to carry out. Really not leadership, or, at least I don’t think so. Ford’s experiment failed and we can all learn from his mistakes. I did a little further studying and Henry Ford II made sure those in the organization had the skills necessary to carry out leading the parts of the organization they were responsible and then Ford II gave them the latitude to lead. HenryFord_02_2000

It would do us all good to learn from the lessons of all three of these great innovators turned executives.


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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