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Peter Drucker’s Life and Legacy


Peter F. Drucker was a writer, professor, management consultant and self-described “social ecologist,” who explored the way human beings organize themselves and interact much the way an ecologist would observe and analyze the biological world.


Hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management,” Drucker directly influenced a huge number of leaders from a wide range of organisations across all sectors of society. Among the many: General Electric, IBM, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Girl Scouts of the USA, The Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Farm Workers and several presidential administrations.


Drucker’s 39 books, along with his countless scholarly and popular articles, predicted many of the major developments of the late 20th century, including privatization and decentralization, the rise of Japan to economic world power, the decisive importance of marketing and innovation, and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. In the late 1950s, Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker,” and he spent the rest of his life examining an age in which an unprecedented number of people use their brains more than their backs.


Throughout his work, Drucker called for a healthy balance—between short-term needs and long-term sustainability; between profitability and other obligations; between the specific mission of individual organisations and the common good; between freedom and responsibility.


Drucker’s first major work, The End of Economic Man, was published in 1939. After reading it, Winston Churchill described Drucker as “one of those writers to whom almost anything can be forgiven because he not only has a mind of his own, but has the gift of starting other minds along a stimulating line of thought.”


Driven by an insatiable curiosity about the world around him—and a deep desire to make that world a better place—Drucker continued to write long after most others would have put away their pens. The result was a ceaseless procession of landmarks and classics: Concept of the Corporation in 1946, The Practice of Management in 1954, The Effective Executive in 1967, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices in 1973, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 1985, Post-Capitalist Society in 1993, Management Challenges for the 21st Century in 1999.


Drucker, who had taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Bennington College, and New York University, spent the last 30-plus years of his career on the faculty at Claremont Graduate University. In 2002, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.


He died in November 2005, just shy of his 96th birthday.

Drucker’s Career Timeline and Bibliography

Early Years

Peter Drucker was born in Vienna, Austria on November 19, 1909. The household in which he grew up was one of great intellectual ferment. His parents, Adolph and Caroline, regularly held evening salons with economists (including Joseph Schumpeter, who would come to have a tremendous influence on Drucker), politicians, musicians, writers and scientists. “That was actually my education,” Drucker later said.


Drucker moved from Austria to Germany to study admiralty law at Hamburg University before transferring to Frankfurt University, where he studied law at night. He also became senior editor in charge of foreign affairs and business at Frankfurt’s largest daily newspaper, the Frankfurter General-Anzeiger.


Drucker received his PhD in international law from Frankfurt University in 1932. Three years later, he moved to England after two of his essays—one on Friedrich Julius Stahl, a leading German philosopher, and a second, The Jewish Question in Germany—were banned and burned by the Nazis. In Cambridge, Drucker attended a lecture by leading economist John Maynard Keynes, and there had an epiphany: “I suddenly realized that Keynes and all the brilliant economic students in the room were interested in the behavior of commodities while I was interested in the behavior of people.” In 1934, Drucker married Doris Schmitz. They moved to the United States in 1937. Drucker served as a correspondent for several British newspapers, including the Financial Times. He eventually began teaching economics part time at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

Title published in the 1930s The End of Economic Man


Drucker’s invitation to take a close peek inside General Motors resulted in the publication of his landmark book Concept of the Corporation in 1946. It was during this engagement that Drucker met legendary GM Chairman Alfred Sloan, who would in many ways become Drucker’s model for the effective executive. “The chief executive must be…absolutely tolerant and pay no attention to how a man does his work, let alone whether he likes a man or not,” Sloan told him. “The only criteria must be performance and character.” Drucker also became professor of philosophy and politics at Bennington College.

Titles published in the 1940s The Future of Industrial Man Concept of the Corporation


In 1950, Drucker joined the faculty of New York University as professor of management; he would work there for 21 years. He also began his formal consulting practice and took on major assignments with Sears, Roebuck and IBM, among others. In 1954, he published The Practice of Management, widely considered the first book to organize the art and science of running an organization into an integrated body of knowledge. Before this, you could find books on individual aspects of managing a business—finance, for example, or human resources. But there was nothing that pieced it all together. What was out there “reminded me of a book on human anatomy that would discuss one joint in the body—the elbow, for instance—without even mentioning the arm, let alone the skeleton and musculature,” Drucker later recalled. By the time he began work on The Practice of Management, then, Drucker was, as he described it, “very conscious of the fact that I was laying the foundations of a discipline.” In 1959, Drucker coined the term “knowledge work,” foreshadowing a new economy in which brains would trump brawn.


Titles published in the 1950s The New Society The Practice of Management America’s Next Twenty Years The Landmarks of Tomorrow


Drucker received the Presidential Citation at NYU, the school’s highest honor. He published the classic The Effective Executive in 1966. (Forty-two years later the Kalima project, which aims to increase the choice of books available to readers in Arabic, would choose The Effective Executive as one of the first 100 titles it translated, along with The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes, The Aeneid by Virgil and The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein.) In 1968’s The Age of Discontinuity, Drucker wrote of a burgeoning phenomenon that, in hindsight, sounds an awful lot like Internet culture: “The impact of cheap, reliable, fast, and universally available information will easily be as great as was the impact of electricity. Certainly young people, a few years hence, will use information systems as their normal tools, much as they now use the typewriter or the telephone.”


Titles published in the 1960s Managing for Results The Effective Executive The Age of Discontinuity



In 1973, Drucker authored his magnum opus, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, and Practices, which would become the playbook for generations of corporate executives, nonprofit managers and government leaders. Some have likened it to the Physicians’ Desk Reference for managers. In 1971, Drucker became the Marie Rankin Clarke Professor of Social Science and Management at what was then called Claremont Graduate School. He also began a 20-year tenure as a monthly columnist for The Wall Street Journal.


Titles published in the 1970s Technology, Management and Society The New Markets and Other Essays Men, Ideas and Politics Drucker on Management Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices The Unseen Revolution People and Performance: The Best of Peter Drucker on Management Adventures of a Bystander


The Claremont Graduate Center of Management was renamed the Peter F. Drucker Management Center in 1987. Drucker published eight new titles during the decade in addition to maintaining active teaching and consulting activities. In 1989, he produced The Nonprofit Drucker, a five-volume audio series featuring insights into the management of the social sector.


Titles published in the 1980s Managing in Turbulent Times Toward the Next Economics and Other Essays The Changing World of the Executive The Last of All Possible Worlds (fiction) The Temptation to Do Good (fiction) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Frontiers of Management The New Realities


The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management (today called the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute) was established in 1990. Drucker delivered the prestigious Godkin Lecture at Harvard University in 1994. The Drucker Center became the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management in 1997, and the Drucker Archives (a repository for Drucker’s manuscripts, letters and other material) was inaugurated in 1998. At the age of 87, Drucker was featured on the cover of Forbes under the headline: “Still the Youngest Mind.”


Titles published in the 1990s Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices Managing for the Future The Ecological Vision Post-Capitalist Society Managing in a Time of Great Change Drucker on Asia: A Dialogue between Peter Drucker and Isao Nakauchi Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management Management Challenges for the 21st Century





Drucker taught his last course in the spring of 2002, at the age of 93 (though he’d continue to lecture periodically for the next several years). That summer, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Bush called Drucker “the world’s foremost pioneer of management theory.” In 2004, the Drucker Graduate School of Management became the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management.


Asked near the end of his life what he considered his most important contributions, Drucker replied:


  • That I early on—almost sixty years ago—realized that management has become the constitutive organ and function of the Society of Organizations;

  • That management is not “Business Management”…but the governing organ of all institutions of Modern Society;

  • That I established the study of management as a discipline in its own right; and

  • That I focused this discipline on People and Power; on Values, Structure and Constitution; and above all on responsibilities—that is, focused the Discipline of Management on Management as a truly liberal art.

    Drucker died on November 11, 2005, eight days shy of his ninety-sixth birthday. In 2006, the Drucker Archives became the Drucker Institute. Our mission is “strengthening organizations to strengthen society.”


    Titles published in the 2000s The Essential Drucker Managing in the Next Society A Functioning Society The Daily Drucker, with Joseph A. Maciariello The Five Most Important Questions (posthumously released)