A Year with Peter Drucker

December 02, 2014


Joseph A. Maciariello's new book allows you to spend a full year in the teachings of "the father of management."

"His driving force was to provide for the needs of citizens of free societies so they would never be tempted to authoritarian substitutes, which history … had shown to be disastrous."

With those lines, Joseph A. Maciariello could be talking about any number of giants of recent history: Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela…

He is, in fact, referring to Peter Drucker, the "father of management." His new book, A Year with Peter Drucker, offers us all a chance to live intimately with the man through his writings and teachings. The book is laid out in 52 "weeks," or one chapter for each week of the year. Each week has an introduction, a reading, points for reflection, and a practicum-prompt that helps you apply what you've read to your own circumstances.

In the first week, about "Developing Leaders, Not Functionaries," Maciariello talks of Drucker's hopes that the American industrial organization would "provide a place where employees could find community, citizenship, meaning, and purpose for their lives." In doing so, he takes us back to the beginning of Drucker's own development, to his books on The End of Economic Man released in 1939, to 1942's The Future of Industrial Man, and his idea of the "self-governing plant community."



I. Read

The only definition of a leader is someone with followers. When you do it, do it your way, what works for you. Do not try to be anybody else. Leadership is an achievement of trust. You know what to expect, and you see performance and achievement. What matters is “Leadership for what purpose?” Leadership means getting the right things done. No two leaders are alike. Some are very gregarious, some are very aloof, some are charmers, and others are like a dead mackerel. Some are communicators, and some praise, and others may never praise. They all have two things in common: they get things done, and you can trust them.


Let me give you an example of effective leadership. I was in Vermont during World War II, at a small women’s college, but I was also available to the War Department, and I worked for the assistant secretary of war on specific assignments. I had one qualification: I was not in uniform. So a general could scream at me, but he could not give me orders. That was very important.

One of the assignments I received was a relationship with the nonexistent Dutch army. The guests and very close friends of President Roosevelt—Princess Beatrix, who became queen of the Netherlands; her husband, who was a German prince; and three of his brothers, who ran the German army—wanted supplies that fitted Dutch specifications. However, the Dutch army was nonexistent, and I was not going to recommend interrupting war production.

I said, “No.” They apparently complained to President Roosevelt or General Marshall, the chief of staff, [hoping] to get rid of me. Now, I did not work for General Marshall. However, General Marshall called me and said, “What’s going on?” I told him. He responded, “You are doing what you are supposed to be doing; forget about it. I’ll take care of it.” I never heard of it again. That is leadership. I could trust Marshall absolutely. […]

Peter F. Drucker, Executive Summary: A Conversation with Peter Drucker on Leadership and Organizational Development. February 5, 2002, p. 5, as edited by author.


II. Reflect

  • A focus on mission and purpose and the creation of trust are among the key differences between effective leaders and functionaries.
  • Organizations are built on trust, and trust is built on communication and mutual understanding. To achieve mutual understanding you must understand what information your colleagues need from you to perform their function, and they must understand what you need from them.


To trust a leader, it is not necessary to like her. Nor is it necessary to agree with her. Trust is the conviction that a leader means what she says. It is a belief in integrity. A leader’s actions and a leader’s professed beliefs must be congruent, or at least compatible. Effective leadership—and again this is very old wisdom—is not based on being clever; it is based primarily on being consistent.


Peter F. Drucker as revised and updated by Joseph A. Maciariello, Management: The Revised Edition, 2008, pp. 290–91.


In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man’s associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.


Dwight David Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and thirty-fourth president of the United States, n.d.

  • Manual, service, and knowledge workers are all capable of assuming managerial responsibilities. […] Empowerment, based on competence and trust, is essential to the productivity of the knowledge worker and to the welfare of the organization.


Of all my work on management, I consider my ideas for the self-governing plant community and for the responsible worker to be the most important and most original. A self-governing plant community is the assumption of managerial responsibility by the individual employee, the work team, and the employee group alike for the structure of the individual job, for the performance of major tasks, and for the management of such community affairs as shift schedules, vacation schedules, overtime assignments, industrial safety, and above all employee benefits. But managements have tended to reject these ideas as “encroachment” on their prerogatives. And labor unions have been outright hostile: they are convinced that they need a visible and identifiable “boss,” who can be fought as “the enemy.”


Peter F. Drucker, June 23, “Self-GoverningCommunities,” The Daily Drucker, 2004.

  • If leaders in business are to regain their status as a leading group in society, they must seek a society in which the public good is reflected in their actions. They must make their institutions perform for the society and economy, for the community, and for the individual. This requires a focus on the interests of all stakeholders of the organization, which in turn requires a shift from maximizing shareholder value and short-term profitability to maximizing the long-term wealth-producing capacity of the enterprise. This focus involves consideration of the welfare of employees and society as well as customers, suppliers, and stockholders.


None of our institutions exist[s] by itself and as an end in itself. Everyone is an organ of society and exists for society. Business is no exception. “Free enterprise” cannot be justified as being good for business. It can be justified only as being good for society.


Peter F. Drucker, Executive Summary: A Conversation with Peter Drucker on Leadership and Organizational Development. February 5, 2002, p. 5, as edited by author.

Excerpted from A Year with Peter Drucker by Joseph A. Maciariello
Copyright © 2014 by Joseph A. Maciariello.
Reprinted courtesy of Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved


Joseph A. Maciariello is a senior fellow and Marie Rankin Clarke professor emeritus of social science and management at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management of Claremont Graduate University. He collaborated with Drucker on many publications, including The Effective Executive in Action, Management: The Revised Edition, and The Daily Drucker.

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