C. William Pollard, the long-time serving past CEO of The ServiceMaster Company, was often inclined to remark that “management is a liberal art.” This is a phrase attributable to one of Pollard’s friends and consultants, Peter Drucker, the pioneer of the academic discipline of management. Several features of the phrase are worth noting. First of all, few managers or specialists in the field would be inclined to speak of management in this way; therefore, the phrase stands as a kind of anomaly, as an odd remark in the face of “conventional” thinking in which profit and the maximization of shareholder value typically reign prominently. Second, the phrase is remarkable to consider from an academic perspective in that “management” is usually housed within a school of business at a university whereas the “liberal arts” are locatable elsewhere on a university campus. As disciplinary rivalries go, business and the liberal arts do not always get along, and so the phrase is calling for a kind of interdisciplinary exchange that ideally can and should happen in academic settings but, unfortunately, oftentimes does not take place because of a host of factors, including academic and nonacademic ones. Third, it is remarkable that Pollard and Drucker were drawn to this phrase in that both of them were also people of faith. Whereas Drucker was not inclined to publicize his religious convictions, it was generally known that Drucker did find faith to be significantly important, not only personally at some level but professionally as well. Pollard, on the other hand, worked for a company whose ethos was explicitly religious. During Pollard’s tenure at the company, ServiceMaster was famous for having four objectives, the first of which was “To Honor God in All We Do.” Although this first objective raised a number of questions—and one could even say resistance— during Pollard’s leadership of ServiceMaster, he nevertheless persisted in highlighting and actually living it as part of his managerial style. Could it be that Drucker and Pollard found “management as a liberal art” compelling for their life and work in light of their religious convictions? Furthermore, could “management as a liberal art” be a way for Christians in particular to envision their role as managers in the workplace?
Castelo, Daniel, "Management as a Christian Liberal Art" (2019). Pollard Research Fellowship Papers. 4.
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