November 16, 2005
News & Opinion: Dan Pink on Peter Drucker
In that gesture is my small remembrance of Peter Drucker. Because in that gesture is a legacy of Druckers life that has gone largely unremarked.
Everyone knows that Drucker invented the field of management. His contributions to business thinking were monumental. All of us who have the good fortune to study and write about business for a living stand on his (and, I would argue, Tom Peterss) shoulders.
But Druckers greatest legacy at least to me, if youll forgive my personalizing this tribute is not so much what he said. Its how he lived. Forget the brilliance of his thought. Look at the texture of his life. The man was a glorious role model.
He worked his butt off and never became complacent. With all his accomplishments, Drucker could have started phoning it in 30 years ago. He didnt. He pushed and pushed and pushed. He wrote more than a dozen books after he turned 65! Amazing.
He was a non-stop learner. Drucker said that every few years he liked to master a new subject. Thats why this Austrian guy with a law degree and penchant for economics decided to study . . . Japanese art. He became an expert, of course. But more important than this particular expertise was the broader lesson: Theres always more to learn and the most valuable learning often exists outside the cramped cabin of management. Druckers long life proved the principle: Being curious is the only way to be fully alive.
He devoted himself to a higher cause. The essence of Druckers philosophy was that, at its best, business could be about something noble. Business in contrast to centralized government, which he once called obese, muscle-bound, and senile offered a powerful way to liberate human potential and elevate our lives. He counseled companies not only to perform better, but also to be better. And he pressed himself to be better as well. He devoted much of his later life to advising non-profit groups (though he often made them write a check he never cashed so they knew the full value of his advice.) Drucker lived modestly, but his reason for living wasnt modest at all: He wanted to change the world.
One packet of advice that Ducker often dispensed was to set goals for a six-month segment and then revisit those goals at the end of the six months. I started doing that about ten years ago and it has been profoundly helpful. But for my next set of six month goals and most likely every set thereafter Ill have a new entry: Be more like Ducker, the man whose gracious and unexpected note hangs on my wall.
Author of A Whole New Mind
and Free Agent Nation
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.