Born in a suburb of Vienna, Austria on November 19, 1909. His kindergarten teacher taught “the concept of management,” and his 4th grade religious instructor asked, “What do you want to be remembered for?” His father held gatherings in the Drucker home where intellectuals, high government officials and scientists would discuss ideas and events. Among those who attended were Sigmund Freud and Joseph Schumpeter, who later impressed upon Drucker the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Moved from Austria to Germany to study admiralty law at Hamburg University before transferring to Frankfurt University. Studied law at night. Became senior editor in charge of foreign affairs and business at Frankfurt’s largest daily newspaper, the Frankfurter General-Anzeiger.
Received a Ph.D. in international law from Frankfurt University. Moved to London 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 Nazi government.
Attended a lecture by leading economist John Maynard Keynes in 1934 in Cambridge, 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.”
Married Doris Schmitz. Moved to the United States as correspondent for several British newspapers, including the Financial Times. Began teaching economics part time at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
Title published in the 1930s
- The End of Economic Man
Took on his first of many consulting projects for General Motors, resulting in the publication of his landmark book, Concept of the Corporation (1946). Met legendary GM Chairman Alfred Sloan, who would become in many ways the 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 Drucker. “The only criteria must be performance and character.”
Became professor of philosophy and politics at Bennington College and a naturalized citizen of the United States. Served briefly as a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and regular contributor to Harper’s Magazine.
Titles published in the 1940s
- The Future of Industrial Man
- Concept of the Corporation
Joined the faculty of New York University as professor of management, where he would work for 21 years. Began his formal consulting practice and took on major assignments with Sears Roebuck and IBM. Published The Practice of Management in 1954. He described it as “the foundation of a discipline.”
Coined the term “knowledge work” in 1959, the same year that Bill Gates turned four years old and Texas Instruments applied for the first patent on an integrated circuit.
Titles published in the 1950s
- The New Society
- The Practice of Management
- America’s Next Twenty Years
- The Landmarks of Tomorrow
Continued at New York University where he received the Presidential Citation, the school’s highest honor. Published the now-classic The Effective Executive in 1966. (Forty two years later, Kalima—a project that aims to increase the number and choice of books available to readers in Arabic—would choose The Effective Executive as one of the first 100 books it would translate, 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.)
Titles published in the 1960s
- Managing for Results
- The Effective Executive
- The Age of Discontinuity
Authored his magnum opus, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, which would become the playbook for generations of corporate executives, nonprofit managers and government leaders. In it, Drucker famously wrote: “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.”
Became the Clarke Professor of Social Sciences and Management at Claremont Graduate School in California and a lecturer in Oriental Art at Pomona College. Appointed to the Board of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Began a 20-year tenure as a monthly columnist for the editorial page of 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
Called for, and anticipated, the dramatic increase in volunteerism and in the number of nonprofits. “Only the social sector can create what we now need, communities for citizens—and especially for the highly educated knowledge workers who increasingly dominate developed societies.”
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
Delivered the prestigious Godkin Lecture at Harvard University in 1994. The Drucker Center became the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management (today called the Leader to Leader Institute) was established in 1990. The Drucker Archives was inaugurated in 1999. Drucker authored 10 new titles.
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
Taught his last course in the spring of 2002, at the age of 93. The Drucker Graduate School of Management became the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management. Gave his name to the Peter F. Drucker Academy of Beijing, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to bringing Drucker’s values and ideas to China’s burgeoning number of entrepreneurs and managers.
Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2002. President Bush called Drucker “the world’s foremost pioneer of management theory.”
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.
In 2006 the Drucker Archives became the Drucker Institute, with a mission to carry forward Drucker’s life work: stimulating effective management and ethical leadership across all sectors of society.
Titles published in the 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)
More about Peter Drucker
- Peter Drucker’s Life and Legacy: Hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management,” Drucker directly influenced a huge number of leaders from a wide range of organizations across all sectors of society.
- A Drucker Sampler: Readings available online for free that cover three of Drucker’s core areas of focus—the individual, organizations and society
- Tributes to Drucker: Including Jim Collins on why “Peter Drucker contributed more to the triumph of freedom and free society over totalitarianism than anyone in the 20th century, including perhaps Winston Churchill”
- Books by Drucker: All 39 of his books as well as his monographs, other works and publications to which he was a contributing writer
- Books About Drucker: Personal and intellectual biographies, memoirs by Drucker’s former students and books on management that are rooted primarily and explicitly in Drucker’s work