Peter F. Drucker Biography
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
Peter Ferdinand Drucker : writer, management consultant, and self-described "social ecologist."
Peter Ferdinand Drucker (November 19, 1909-November 11, 2005) was a writer, management consultant, and self-described "social ecologist." Widely considered to be the father of "modern management," his 39 books and countless scholarly and popular articles explored how humans are organized across all sectors of society—in business, government and the nonprofit world. His writings have predicted many of the major developments of the late twentieth century, including privatization and decentralization; the rise of Japan to economic world power; the decisive importance of marketing; and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. In 1959, Drucker coined the term "knowledge worker."
Personal Life and Philosophy Roots
The son of a high level civil servant in Austria-Hungary — his mother Caroline Bondi had studied medicine and his father Adolph Bertram Drucker was a lawyer — Drucker was born in Vienna, the capital of Austria, in a small village named Kaasgraben (now part of the 19th district of Vienna, Döbling). He grew up in a home where intellectuals, high government officials and scientists would meet to discuss new ideas and ideals. After Graduating from Döbling Gymnasium, Drucker found few opportunities for employment in post-Habsburg Vienna so he moved to Hamburg, Germany, first working as an apprentice at an established cotton trading company, then as a journalist, writing for the Österreichische Volkswirt (The Austrian Economist). Drucker then moved to Frankfurt where he took a job at the Daily Frankfurter General Anzeiger. While in Frankfurt, he also earned a doctorate in international law and public law from the University of Frankfurt in 1931. Among his early influences was the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, a friend of his father's, who impressed upon Drucker the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship. Drucker also was influenced, in a much different way, by John Maynard Keynes, whom he heard lecture in 1934 in Cambridge. "I suddenly realized that Keynes and all the brilliant economic students in the room were interested in the behavior of commodities," Drucker wrote, "while I was interested in the behavior of people."
Indeed, over the next 70 years, Drucker's writings would be marked by a clear focus on relationships among human beings, as opposed to the crunching of numbers. His books were filled with lessons on how organizations can bring out the best in people, and how workers can find a sense of community and dignity in a modern society organized around large institutions.
As a young writer, Drucker wrote two pieces—one on the conservative German philosopher Friedrich Julius Stahl and another called "The Jewish Question in Germany"—that were burned and banned by the Nazis. In 1933, Drucker left Germany for England. In London, he worked for an insurance company then as the chief economist at a private bank. He also reconnected with Doris Schmitz, an acquaintance from the University of Frankfurt. They married in 1934. (His wedding certificate lists his name as Peter Georg Drucker.) The couple permanently relocated to the United States, where he became a university professor as well as a freelance writer and business consultant. (Drucker disliked the term 'guru', though it was often applied to him; "I have been saying for many years," Drucker once remarked, "that we are using the word 'guru' only because 'charlatan' is too long to fit into a headline.")
In 1943, Drucker became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He taught at Bennington College from 1942-1949, then at New York University as a Professor of Management from 1950 to 1971. Drucker came to California in 1971, where he developed one of the country's first executive MBA program for working professionals at Claremont Graduate University (then known as Claremont Graduate School). From 1971 to his death he was the Clarke Professor of Social Science and Management at Claremont Graduate University. The university's management school was named the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management (later known as the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management) in his honor in 1987. He taught his last class at the school in the Spring of 2002.
His career as a business thinker took off in 1942, when his initial writings on politics and society won him access to the internal workings of General Motors (GM), one of the largest companies in the world at that time. His experiences in Europe had left him fascinated with the problem of authority. He shared his fascination with Donaldson Brown, the mastermind behind the administrative controls at GM. In 1943 Brown invited him in to conduct what might be called a political audit: a two-year social-scientific analysis of the corporation. Drucker attended every board meeting, interviewed employees, and analyzed production and decision-making processes.
The resulting book, Concept of the Corporation, popularized GM's multidivisional structure and led to numerous articles, consulting engagements, and additional books. GM, however, was hardly thrilled with the final product. Drucker had suggested that the auto giant might want to reexamine a host of long-standing policies on customer relations, dealer relations, employee relations and more. Inside the corporation, Drucker's counsel was viewed as hypercritical. GM's revered chairman, Alfred Sloan, was so upset about the book that he "simply treated it as if it did not exist," Drucker later recalled, "never mentioning it and never allowing it to be mentioned in his presence."
Drucker taught that management is "a liberal art," and he infused his management advice with interdisciplinary lessons from history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, culture and religion. He also believed strongly that all institutions, including those in the private sector, have a responsibility to the whole of society. "The fact is," Drucker wrote in his 1973 magnum opus, Management - Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, "that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will."
Drucker was interested in the growing effect of people who worked with their minds rather than their hands. He was intrigued by employees who knew more about certain subjects than their bosses or colleagues and yet had to cooperate with others in a large organization. Rather than simply glorify the phenomenon as the epitome of human progress, Drucker analyzed it and explained how it challenged the common thinking about how organizations should be run.
His approach worked well in the increasingly mature business world of the second half of the twentieth century. By that time, large corporations had developed the basic manufacturing efficiencies and managerial hierarchies of mass production. Executives thought they knew how to run companies, and Drucker took it upon himself to poke holes in their beliefs, lest organizations become stale. But he did so in a sympathetic way. He assumed that his readers were intelligent, rational, hardworking people of good will. If their organizations struggled, he believed it was usually because of outdated ideas, a narrow conception of problems, or internal misunderstandings.
During his long consulting career, Drucker worked with many major corporations, including General Electric, Coca- Cola, Citicorp, IBM, and Intel. He consulted with notable business leaders such as GE's Jack Welch; Procter & Gamble's A.G. Lafley; Intel's Andy Grove, Edward Jones' John Bachmann; Shoichiro Toyoda, the honorary chairman of Toyota Motor Corp.; and Masatoshi Ito, the honorary chairman of the Ito-Yokado Group, the second largest retailing organization in the world.
But Drucker's insights extended far beyond business. He served as a consultant for various government agencies in the United States, Canada and Japan. And, most notably, he worked with various non-profit organizations to help them become successful, often consulting pro-bono. Among the many social-sector groups he advised were the Salvation Army, the Girl Scouts, C.A.R.E., the American Red Cross, and the Navajo Indian Tribal Council.
In fact, Drucker anticipated the rise of the social sector in America, maintaining that it was through volunteering in nonprofits that people would find the kind of fulfillment that he originally thought would be provided through their place of work, but that had proven elusive in that arena. "Citizenship in and through the social sector is not a panacea for the ills of post-capitalist society and post-capitalist polity, but it may be a prerequisite for tackling these ills," Drucker wrote. "It restores the civic responsibility that is the mark of citizenship, and the civic pride that is the mark of community."
Peter Drucker published his first book, The End of Economic Man, in 1939. He then joined the faculty of New York University's Graduate Business School as Professor of Management in 1950. Since 1971, he has been Clarke Professor of Social Science and Management at the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. The university named its management school after him in 1987.
Peter Drucker has written 35 books in all: 15 books deal with management, including the landmark books The Practice of Management and The Effective Executive; 16 cover society, economics, and politics; 2 are novels; and 1 is a collection of autobiographical essays. His most recent book, Managing in the Next Society, was published in fall 2002.
Drucker's books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Two are novels, one an autobiography. He is the co-author of a book on Japanese painting, and made eight series of educational films on management topics. He also penned a regular column in the Wall Street Journal for 20 years and contributed frequently to the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Economist. He continued to act as a consultant to businesses and non-profit organizations well into his nineties. Drucker died November 11, 2005 in Claremont, California of natural causes at 95. He is survived by his wife Doris, four children, and six grandchildren.
Experts in the worlds of business and academia regard Peter Drucker as the founding father of the study of management.
Several ideas run through most of Drucker's writings:
Awards and honors
For his accomplishments, Peter Drucker was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush on July 9, 2002. He also received orders from the governments of Japan and Austria. He was the Honorary Chairman of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, now the Leader to Leader Institute, from 1990 through 2002. In 1969 he was awarded NYU's highest honor, the NYU Presidential Citation. Drucker was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1996. Additionally he holds 25 honorary doctorates from American, Belgian, Czech, English, Spanish and Swiss Universities.
List of publications
Books About Peter Drucker
The Definitive Drucker by Edersheim, Elizabeth, (2007)