Can responsibility be made commensurate with authority? – Peter Drucker’s interesting views

Peter Drucker was of the considered views that “…it was dangerous to hand out authority without responsibility, that if we decentralize we have to make people responsible and accountable. Otherwise. . . . it would be chaos.”

For Drucker, few principles were more sacrosanct: “Whoever claims authority thereby assumes responsibility,” he wrote in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “But whoever assumes responsibility thereby claims authority. The two are different sides of the same coin.”

In Concept of the Corporation, Drucker was even more blunt: “Authority without responsibility is tyranny, and responsibility without authority is impotence.”


In July 2011, I opted to retire from my active career as a practicing management professional. In the 38 years that I pursued this career, I had opportunity to work in diverse capacities, in small-to-medium-to-large engineering companies. Whether I was setting up Greenfield projects or Brownfield projects, nurturing the new start-ups or accelerating the stabilized unit to a next phase growth, I had many more occasions to take the paths uncharted. The life then was so challenging! One of the biggest casualty in that phase was my disregards towards my hobbies - Be with The Family, Enjoy Music form Films of 1940s to mid-1970s period, write on whatever I liked to read, pursue amateur photography and indulge in solving the chess problems. So I commenced my Second Innings to focus on this area of my life as the primary occupation. At the end of four years, I am now quite a regular blogger. I have been able to build a few very strong pen-relationships. I maintain contact with 38-years of my First Innings as freelance trainer and process facilitator. And yet, The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

7 thoughts on “Can responsibility be made commensurate with authority? – Peter Drucker’s interesting views”

  1. I really appreciate the way Drucker irrevocably joins authority and responsibility together here. In the words of Harry Truman, “The buck stops here!”

  2. Drucker’s viewpoint is correct. Assuming ‘social responsibility’ is a way to obtain ‘authority’ which should legitimately rest somewhere else. Moreover, it diverts attention from the real platform for authority. Can we view philenthro-capitalism in this light? I always suspect this new trend which I think obstructs the real analysis of the causes that lead to social imbalance.

    1. The concept ‘social responsibility’ vis-a-vis ‘entrusted’ authority has been geeting more complex with the amount of quite considered analyses and researches being carried out at all the stages of ‘modern’ socia-political developments.
      Capitalist philanthorpy is even more nebulous – one needs to really very sharply read between the lines to really understand whether philanthropy is a result of accepted responsibilty or means to establish more authority.
      There are very raqre examples like that of the institutions intitiated by Anuben Thakkar who stil seem to mainatin the priginal purpose even after having reached a state of realtive material opulance for the cause. Whereas the strong movement during the life time Pandurang Shastriji petered into a string of murders sonn after his [physical] departure.
      What is required is very fundamental, and very rare, ‘leadership’ quality which indeed identifies those colleagues who share the values in the same vein and then delegate the mantle.

      1. The Indian concept of ‘daan’ is closest to the philenthro-capitalism. I think it is clearly a regressive method of serving people as it did not fulfil the condition of equality of all; indeed it justified unequal status of members of the society and gave respectability to the people who owned money. The ‘Responsibility’ they took upon themselves gave them ‘authority’.
        On the other hand, if you send your maid servant to buy vegetables (giving responsibility) you also have to give her authority to pay according to the market price of the day for the quantity you have defined. or, you should give her authority to purchase lesser stuff if you have defined the quantum money she can spend.

  3. ‘Daan’ is a passive means of passing on ‘help’ from ‘haves’ to have-nots’.. ‘Giving away’ was the choice of the giver, more of an “assumed” responsibility, and therefore ceratinly implies ‘power’ – a more aggresive ‘authority’.
    The case of maid is a matter of delegating the responsibilty matching the responsibility assigned. Most optimum results are seen to have been achieved when assignment of responsibilty and corresponding authority is mutually agreed between the stakeholders.
    Modern managment system standards, therfore, require that responsibilty assigned and authority given are explicitly documented, thereby leaving no room for any ambigity to the the assigned responsibilty and delegated authority for a given role.
    Obviously, sucess of attaining planned results is critically dependent on the quality of give-and-take of responsibility – authority.

    1. It is but obvious that a person, like you, who also essentailly thinks in unconventional manner on conventional topics and can put across the views in well-structured manner, would apprecaiate the thought process of thinksers like Peter Drucker. I trust you may have enjoyed reading Ayn Rand, too – of course, she is on a much different wavelength than Peter Drucker, even though both were strong advocates of private enterprise.

      Thanks for your visits to the blog.

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