Drucker: Treat Employees Like Volunteers

Lousy leaders think pay checks are
permission to treat people like slaves.

Drucker volunteer quote


I caught an awkward glimpse of myself when I asked my wife, “Would you like me to tell you what I think you should do?”

Surprisingly, she said, “No, not really.”

In that no-moment, I felt helpless. If I don’t tell you what to do, what can I do, I thought to myself? What can I say?

I asked, “What would you like me to do when you feel stuck?”

She said, “Do what you do best. Ask questions. Help me find an answer.”


I enjoy the power of telling. Its funny how telling is easy to do, but hard to take. I don’t like being told. Do you?

If leading was telling, we’d have more leaders.

Danger of pay checks:

Lousy leaders use pay checks as permission to control. You feel like you own their time because you paid for it. Technically, you’re right. But, who enjoys being controlled?

  1. Demand obedience.
  2. Exclude from decisions.
  3. Control rather than give control.
  4. Tell rather than ask.
  5. Talk rather than listen.
  6. Disrespect because their salaries are less.
  7. Ignore praise, thanks, honor, and recognition.

If employees were volunteers leaders would:

  1. Focus more on people with passion and less on people with talent.
  2. Seek agreement on expectations and deliverables.
  3. Ask permission to hold people accountable.
  4. Express gratitude sincerely.
  5. Address tough conversations kindly.
  6. Focus on aligning organizational and individual values.
  7. Build relationships.
  8. Listen.
  9. Include.
  10. Respect.

Bonus: Help people get where they want to go by understanding their goals and leveraging their strengths.

How would things change if you ignored the fact that employees are paid and treated them like volunteers?

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