In Memoriam: Joseph A. Maciariello – Extending Drucker’s Principles & Practices to the 21st Century

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Joseph A. Maciariello (1941 – 2020) was Peter F. Drucker’s closest collaborator and considered by many the world's leading Drucker scholar.

His passing is, indeed, a sad moment for all who knew Joe and his never wavering passion to share, expand upon and amplify Drucker's brilliantly constructive contributions to economic thinking, managing for results, strategic marketing, the practice of innovation, new realities and much more.

Joe Maciariello's literate, thoughtful treatment of Drucker's extensive body of published and unpublished works provides serious-minded executives with rich, practical insights served up in the soufflé of good style.

Joe was very supportive of CLN's efforts to frequently repeat & broadly disseminate Drucker’s principles, practices and timely prescriptions for managing in a changed world–especially our continuous searches for actual "mini-cases," examples and illustrations of how 21st century management practitioners are putting into practice Drucker's all-important precepts.

Further, in personal conversations with Joe, he expressed great interest in bringing the central issues, trends and developments of the relatively near-term future, and the questions, problems and opportunities they present, to America and the world.

Many of the issues Drucker discussed and shed new light on are subjects such as: we are no longer living in the capitalist society described by many politicians. We are now living in a Post-Capitalist society which does not resemble the political rhetoric we are bombarded with daily.

Today's new capitalists are really knowledge-workers with 401(k)s and/or pensions–highly dependent on the current and future success of businesses. Drucker called this "pension fund socialism," that is, many workers really own through 401(k)s and pensions the means of production.

Joe added much to our understanding of Drucker's penetrating insights on these societal changes and dozens of other related topics.

Management as a Liberal Art

Joe's “labor of love” produced a significant & unique synthesis of Drucker’s enormous contributions to individual and organizational effectiveness. Never more needed than now.

In 2011, Joe co-authored (with Karen Linkletter) Drucker's Lost Art of Management. In essence, Joe took a Drucker insight about why effective management was a liberal art, and developed it into a far-reaching, new blueprint for redeeming/reenergizing organizations of all kinds and sizes.

Said Drucker: "Managers should draw on all the knowledge and insights of the humanities and the social sciences–on psychology and philosophy, on economics and history, on ethics, as well as the physical sciences… But they have to focus this knowledge on effectiveness and results."

In wide-ranging discussions with Joe, he fully agreed many in our society are now being indoctrinated, not taught. Simply put, increasingly, younger generations are being taught what to think rather than how to think.

Thinking: The New Necessity

Drucker, in many of his books and articles, stressed the need for asking the right question(s).

The most serious mistakes are never, observed Drucker, made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.

Joe in his books and conversations (with us) almost always touched on the timeliness of Drucker's unique ability to ask the right question and/or re-frame a given problem–making it solvable.

Here Follows Just a Few Examples of the Need to Ask the Right Questions–From a Societal Perspective

Much political rhetoric still emphasizes the axiom: "All the poor need is money." Indeed, this assumption is embedded in what's known as the "Neo-Keynesian" economic model.

Yet this question misleads, misinforms and misdirects. If the axiom is changed to "all the poor need is competence," the emphasis changes to creating within individuals self-respect and self-support.

Just to be clear: Of course there is need for money. But money alone encourages incompetence and irresponsibility. The problem, as can be seen from a wisdom-based approach to today's daily news reports, is not money–it's dignity.

Said Drucker: "What is needed is to refocus welfare on creating independence, competence, responsibility… There is a need for what welfare was supposed to be: a 'safety net.'… It must only be prevented from becoming a 'couch' and a permanent resting place…

… Today's welfare focuses on needs… There will only be true 'welfare,' however, if the focus is on results…"

Another Timely Drucker Example Often Mentioned by Joe

Many of today's political candidates are pushing the notion that we must radically change income distribution through the tax system.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, the American legal scholar and judge, is widely remembered for his saying: "The power to tax is the power to destroy."

Confiscatory and punitive corporate and personal taxes have a very long history.

Increasingly, political rhetoric, Drucker observed, "asserts taxes should be used to redistribute income, especially from the rich to the poor, and thus…further social justice and create a more equitable society."

History tells us that in the real world, Karl Marx's idea of equality always gets subverted by people who want power and who inevitably organize authoritative regimes to keep that power.

An Economic System Reality

The empirical evidence points to the fact that many of the "rich" are responsible for creating a massive number of high-paying professional, managerial and technical jobs because of their success and by continuously innovating in order to sustain their organization's prosperity.

To be sure, taxes can shift income and wealth. It has been done many times.

Politicians as well as voters always seem to prefer onerous taxation instead of focusing the solution with the least side effects and maximum benefits.

Simply put, the emphasis on "What can be done to make the rich poorer via taxation in order to redistribute wealth?" is the wrong question.

The question should focus on "What must be done to make the poor richer or more productive?"

By changing the question, energies and monies are directed to solving the real problem without the inevitable consequences of creating what always occurs when inept politicians gain power–societal suffering, humiliation and frustration.

Back to Management as a Liberal Art

Indeed, Drucker emphasized, and Joe in a variety of ways expanded on, why the liberal arts among other things can create a different mindset for truly remedying some of society's most pressing problems.

One's perception or mindset is determined by one's knowledges and experiences. To ask the right questions requires the appropriate knowledges and experiences.

All institutions have to be managed for performance and results–not only businesses.

Government leaders at all levels including state and local governments, we believe Joe would say, need to understand and be highly trained in liberal arts teachings in addition to all the other core competencies required to achieve the required performance.

Why? Because it would provide them with a better understanding of societal values, standards of behavior and conduct, and, perhaps, the appropriate moral compasses to help them generate new ideas for contributing to a better society.

Philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said: "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding."

“Management as an Alternative to Tyranny"

Joe brought to our attention in his book A Year with Peter Drucker one of Drucker's key insights about America's potential direction if current trends are not properly addressed.

Effective leadership and management of society's organizations is an alternative to tyranny (lawlessness) & the only remedy for preserving/expanding responsible freedom and equality of opportunity.

To slightly paraphrase Joe and Drucker: "Tyranny substitutes one absolute boss for a thinking society… It substitutes terror for responsibility… Tyranny tends to create one all-embracing bureaucracy because people are fearful of doing what's right… Performing responsible management is the alternative to tyranny and the only protection against lawlessness…"

Few would argue that what's happening in New York City and many other cities nationwide with respect to defunding the police, allowing lawlessness to continue if not accelerating its devastating effects by almost rewarding its behavior, will have profound societal consequences.

Drucker’s vision of management leadership is dominated by integrity… high moral values... a focus on developing people... and an emphasis on measurable performance and results.

The point? Politicians we elect should possess these attributes.

Summary & Conclusions

Joseph A. Maciariello significantly advanced the legacy of Peter F. Drucker.

Drucker said so many important and useful things in such remarkably simple ways that many people do not grasp the full complexity of some of his simple pronouncements.

Thanksfully, we had Joe–among a small group of other Drucker disciples–dedicated to converting a true genius' stylistic grace and intellectual rigor into either step-by-step analyses and/or extended explanations coupled with real-world application that provide managers and executives with extraordinary abilities to manage for results.

Joe repeatedly pointed out that Drucker's life was devoted to the principles and practices of management after studying the emergence and horrific impacts of fascist, socialistic and communist governments in Europe during the 20th century.

A true understanding of Drucker's writings provides leaders in all institutions with the thought processes to better understand their role as custodians of a functioning civil society and healthy economic growth.

Joe will long be remembered for his never-ending quest to help us understand Drucker's views on management, the need for constant evaluation of organizational structures, strategy, leadership development and employee motivation.

Joe brought nearly seven decades of Drucker's work from his early antifascist writings, his powerful thinking on what must be done to reinvent government to his most recent books and articles into a coherent body of work that could very well help prevent us from self-destructing.


To learn more about Druckers's teachings & Joe's contributions, we suggest the following readings:

By Joe Maciariello: 
- Lasting Value: Lessons From a Century of Agility at Lincoln Electric

With Peter Drucker:

- The Daily Drucker
- Management: Revised Edition
- The Effective Executive in Action

With Karen Linkletter:
- Drucker’s Lost Art of Management