Leadership Insights from Peter Drucker

Known widely as the father of management, Peter Drucker (1909-2005) formulated many concepts about business that we now take for granted. As an influential writer (39 books) and management consultant Drucker is one of the best known and most widely influential thinkers and writers on the subject of business management. He popularized the concept of MBO (Management by Objectives).

I was first introduced to Peter Drucker’s writing in grad school by Dr. Gil Peterson. That’s been more than 30 years ago, but I appreciated Drucker’s insights then and still do. Here are some of his gems:

“A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge.”

“Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.”

“Business, that’s easily defined – it’s other people’s money.”

“Checking the results of a decision against its expectations shows executives what their strengths are, where they need to improve, and where they lack knowledge or information.”

“Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.”

“Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

“Executives owe it to the organization and to their fellow workers not to tolerate nonperforming individuals in important jobs.”

“Few companies that installed computers to reduce the employment of clerks have realized their expectations… They now need more, and more expensive clerks even though they call them ‘operators’ or ‘programmers.’”

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.”

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.”

“Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.”

“Management by objective works – if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time you don’t.”

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

“Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake.”

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

“Never mind your happiness; do your duty.”

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

Do you have a favorite Drucker quote? If so, let us know.

Stay the Course,

Dr. Greg Morris


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