I wasn’t aware when I wrote my last newsletter that Peter Drucker had died. Some words are so overused that they have become meaningless. Every reasonable journeyman footballer nowadays seems to be described as a “genius” and fairly average business consultants write books with half-baked theories and are described as “giants” and “gurus.” Peter Drucker hated the word “guru, so I shall avoid it, but he truly was a giant amongst business writers and organisational theorists. Here was a genius in his field.
I first came across Peter Drucker in 1979 while a student at Napier College (now University) in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was not studying management but I had an interest in the subject and I was (and remain) a voracious reader. I picked up a Peter Drucker book to read over lunchtime and couldn’t put it down. He wrote so succinctly and so directly that I felt as if he was writing about my experiences. When I was in management and had teams working for me, I did my best to put his theories into practice. When things did not work that was not down to faults with his theories, just my ineffectiveness. But I continued to learn.
Many modern-day theorists, some of whom earn eye-watering sums for lecturing, have simply taken Peter Drucker’s work and re-cycled it for a modern audience. But Peter Drucker said it all, and in such a wonderful way, that he remains for me the master. Philip Kotler who is often described as “the father of marketing” wrote that if that were true, the Peter Drucker is the “grandfather.” He published his first book, The End of Economic Man, in 1939 and his most recent, Managing in the Next Society, in 2002, although I believe he had just completed another (his 36th!) when he died, just short of his 96th birthday. A giant of a man has left us and the world is poorer as result but let us be grateful for the 95 years he gave us.