Drucker on Leadership: New Lessons from the Father of Modern Management
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Although Peter Drucker, “The Father of Modern Management,” died in 2005, his timeless teachings are studied and practiced by forward-thinking managers worldwide. His lessons and wisdom on the topic of leadership—the central element of management—are in constant demand, yet he wrote little under that actual subject heading.
In Drucker on Leadership, William A. Cohen explores Drucker’s lost leadership lessons—why they are missing, what they are, why they are important, and how to apply them. As Cohen explains, Drucker was ambivalent about leadership for much of his career, making it clear that leadership was not by itself “good or desirable.” While Drucker struggled with the concept of leadership, he was well aware that it had a critical impact on the accomplishment of all projects and human endeavors. There is no book from Drucker specifically dedicated to leadership, but a wealth of information about leadership can be found scattered throughout his 40 books and hundreds of articles. Drucker’s teachings about leadership have saved many corporations from failure and helped guide others to outstanding success.
Many of the leadership concepts revealed in this book will surprise and perhaps shock Drucker’s followers. For example, who would have thought that Peter Drucker taught that “leadership is a marketing job” or that “the best leadership lessons for business or any nonprofit organization come from the military”?
Written for anyone who values the insights of the man whose name is synonymous with excellence in management, Drucker on Leadership offers a deeper understanding of what makes an extraordinary leader.
Drucker and Leadership There is little doubt that Peter Drucker, the “Father of Modern Management,” considered leadership the essential management skill. As early as 1947, he declared in Harper’s Magazine, “Management is leadership.”1 Seven years later, in his first book devoted entirely to management, he wrote: “Leadership is of utmost importance. Indeed there is no substitute for it.”2 However, despite these clear early statements, Drucker did at times seem to equivocate about leadership. Only
Kyropaidaia Xenophon wrote about leadership in battle. Thus, the “Father of Modern Management” recommended a book on combat leadership as the best book written on leadership for business leaders, simply because it taught good leadership. Drucker spoke with such confidence and expertise about so many areas that I did not notice anything special about his use of military examples when I was his student, despite my own military background. However, as we talked more after my graduation from the
treating all workers like volunteers. However, in this new book he went further. He called them “partners,” and wrote that partners couldn’t be ordered—they had to be persuaded, and leadership was therefore “a marketing job.”7 What, I asked myself, did Drucker mean by “a marketing job”? Modern marketing rests on the “marketing concept”: the idea that firms should seek to discover and then to satisfy the needs of their customers rather than to concentrate on convincing prospects to purchase
exists emphasizes the increased responsibilities the individual would face from then on at top management levels. Several speakers at the top levels of the military urged that we not do anything different from what had made us successful. Their warnings were well meant and were probably intended to prevent the newly selected generals from running amok out of delusions of grandeur now that they had “arrived.” However, taken literally this advice was almost impossible to follow for reasons pointed
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