Management as a Liberal Art- Moonshots

Peter F. Drucker believed that management is a liberal art.  In fact, to this end he even titled the second chapter in his famous blue covered seminal work, Management, “Management as a Social Function and Liberal Art.”  Drucker explained,

“Management is thus what tradition used to call a liberal art:  ‘liberal’ because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom and leadership; ‘art’ because it is practice and application.” (Drucker, 25)

It’s in this vein that when I read and re-read a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article recently, “Moon Shots for Management” by Gary Hamel, I couldn’t shake the idea that these management theorists were just rediscovering that management is indeed a liberal art.

The 2009 article from HBR which my father pointed me towards really is quite good at offering vision and ideas of management for the future and today’s constantly changing world.  The moonshots as they came up with are 25 larger ideas in response to the question, “What great challenges must we tackle to reinvent management and make it more relevant to a volatile world?”  Two ideas really struck a chord I will quote in their entirety in this blog post.  The first is “Enable Communities of Passion.”

Enable communities of passion.  Passion is a significant multiplier of human accomplishment, particularly when like-minded individuals converge around a worthy cause.  Yet a wealth of data indicates that most employees are emotionally disengaged at work.  They are unfulfilled, and consequently their organizations under perform.  Companies must encourage communities of passion by allowing individuals to find a higher calling within their work lives, by helping to connect employees who share similar passions, and by better aligning the organization’s objectives with the natural interests of its people.” (Hamel, 7)

It goes without saying, without passion there isn’t much of a spark. Without a spark, things might be good but they won’t have that special “it” factor, that feeling that the people engaged in what they are doing really believe in what they are doing and always go above and beyond expectations because they believe in doing so.  Put another way, without an appreciation for vocation and an understanding of vocation as it relates to passion, management fails to ignite the dreams, passion and imagination of their co-workers, peers, constituents, teammates, and colleagues.

The second moonshot idea is “Reconstruct Management’s Philosophical Foundation.”

Reconstruct management’s philosophical foundations.  Tomorrow’s organizations must be adaptable, innovative, inspiring, and socially responsible, as well as operationally excellent.  To imbue organizations with these attributes, scholars and practitioners must rebuild management’s underpinnings.  That will require hunting for new principles in fields as diverse as anthropology, biology, design, political science, urban planning, and theology.” (Hamel, 3)

Management is not just a discipline, its interdisciplinary.  Therefore, I believe it is a liberal art because it draws on the understandings, theories, and learning of multiple arenas.  This is probably why I have such a passion for it.  Because I can’t help but see how the intersections of religion, economics, leadership, theology, politics, design, planning, etc., all come together to inform and shape work and thought.  I believe real managers and leaders see these intersections as well.  They don’t try to ignore the different disciplines, but they try to learn as much as they can, and connect with fellow leaders and learners in the different areas to share insights, discern together, and therefore be able to tackle the larger societal issues and challenges that exist through conversation, mutual learning and appreciation.


Peter F. Drucker, Management:  Revised Edition, (New York, NY:  Collins Business, 2008).

Gary Hamel, “Moon Shots for Management,” Harvard Business Review, (February 2009).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s