Peter Drucker as Life Coach: Book Shares His Wisdom

Peter Drucker as Life Coach: Book Shares His Wisdom

Advice for IT professionals who've been displaced by the recession

Most people think of Peter Drucker as a business visionary, and for good reason. Drucker, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated posthumously this month, was a renowned management professor and consultant, retained by some of the biggest and most powerful companies, including General Electric, Procter & Gamble and IBM. He was also a prolific writer, having published 39 books on management and penned a column for The Wall Street Journal for 20 years, in addition to writing for Forbes, Fortune, The Atlantic and other leading publications.

No one questions Drucker's impact on the business world. But what many people may not realize is that the "father of modern management" had as much to say about self-management and personal development as he did about innovation and organizational effectiveness, says Bruce Rosenstein, author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker's Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life (Berrett-Koehler, August 2009.)

Rosenstein, a former business writer and librarian for USA Today, is a bona fide Drucker devotee, having studied Drucker's work since 1986. He's read every book by or about Drucker, and he conducted one of the last face-to-face interviews with Drucker seven months before his death in November, 2005.

Rosenstein says personal development was a recurring theme in Drucker's work dating back to the early 1950s, and that Drucker was a paragon of practicing what he preached.

"Drucker is the ultimate role model for knowledge workers," says Rosenstein. "We can learn so much about self-development from what he taught and how he lived his life. I found these messages about running your own life scattered through his many books and articles, that weren't pulled into one book."

Rosenstein collected all of Drucker's self-management wisdom-gleaned from interviews and Drucker's writing-in his book, Living in More Than One World. caught up with Rosenstein by phone, while he was at Claremont Graduate University's Drucker School of Management to honor the guru's centennial. Rosenstein spoke about Drucker's life, legacy, and the advice he might give to IT professionals who've been displaced by the recession.

CIO: When did you first meet Peter Drucker?

Bruce Rosenstein: The first time I met him in person was when I interviewed him in 2002 in Los Angeles. I had already had some interaction with him by doing fax interviews. At that late in his life, his hearing was pretty bad, so he preferred to do interviews by fax [rather than over the phone.]

When I first met him face to face, he was the keynote speaker for the 2002 Special Libraries Association's annual conference. I was there to attend the conference and to interview him for USA Today. I did a four hour interview with him in his hotel room and at a Japanese restaurant in the hotel the night before his keynote. This was during the corporate scandals, and we talked about all sorts of things, especially the scandals. He brought in that broad, historic perspective he was known for. He told me he wasn't surprised by the scandals because he had seen things like it in the past. It was a wonderful experience, but it was exhausting. I left him at 11 o'clock that night. He gave his keynote at 9:30 the next morning.

You said you did interviews with Drucker by fax. Did he ever use e-mail?

I don't think he did. My understanding is that he wasn't a computer user. It's possible that in some cases he used e-mail. His wife, Doris, might have sent them for him. For all I know he had an e-mail account at The Drucker School, but I was told to fax my interview questions to him.

Is it ironic that a man who wrote so eloquently about the way information technology was transforming companies wasn't an e-mail user?

I attribute it to his age, but that's just conjectured on my part. He knew a lot about technology and many, many people in the tech world. I don't think he had any sort of aversion to e-mail. I think he had his way of doing things, and toward the end of his life he didn't feel the need to change it.

What's the biggest misconception people have about Peter Drucker?

I would say the biggest misconception is that he's only a management writer because he's in the management section of book stores or that only management people should read him. His appeal is way broader than that.

As we get farther and farther from his death, which wasn't that long ago, I'm also finding people who have heard of him, but who don't realize he died. I'm running into more and more younger people who only have the haziest notion of who he was and who don't know if he's still alive.

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