Elizabeth Haas Edersheim
"A tribute to Peter F. Drucker" - Page 2


Drucker’s declarations have withstood the test of time.  He objected to being characterized as a visionary or a seer.  Yet he painted uncannily accurate pictures of the future thanks to his ability to anticipate the consequence of things that had already happened.  Consider a few examples of many:     

  • In 1927, while attending the Editorial Conference of the Central European Economic and Social Weekly, he was asked what he feared the most.  “I am afraid of Hitler,” he responded.  Others laughed at him because Hitler had just suffered a resounding defeat.
  • In 1942, he wrote that institutions (not nations, states, or other geographically defined entities) were the most important communities and that market stakeholders would become as critical as nation stakeholders.  (Today, market stakeholders may have even superceded nation stakeholders.  Of the one hundred largest economic entities in the world today, 44 are countries and 56 are companies.)
  • In 1947, he wrote that “management is leadership.”  For the past 15 years, no single topic has received more attention in the management world than leadership.  Frances Hesselbein is a frequent speaker in her role as Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Leader to Leader Institute.  “I always include a quote from Peter Drucker,” she notes.  “Inevitably, that is the high point of my speech.  When I leave, it is the Drucker quote that people remember.”
  • In 1950, he wrote that the demographic issue of concern would be the accelerating shift to an aging majority in the United States and other developed Western nations, not excess population growth.  Consider the past year’s Social Security discussion, and consider the debate about what to do with aging baby boomers.
  • In 1954, Peter told his publisher that, “management needs strategy.”  His publisher responded that “strategy” was a term for war, not business – and it would repel readers.  By 1975, the topic of strategy dominated the top management writings in journals and books.
  • In 1960, he warned of a problem created by professional fund managers running pension funds and taking responsibility for building employee equity because of conflicting interests and hostile takeovers. Ownership by employees would, Drucker said, inevitably encourage hostile takeovers and financial looting at the expense of long-term economic health.  The prediction came true in the flood of hostile takeovers 20 years later in 1980, and in the need for Social Security reform today.
  • In 1985, Peter told Walter Wriston, chairman of Citigroup , that the Berlin Wall would fall.  Wriston said that he would have dismissed the prediction if it came from anyone but Peter Drucker.  In 1989, when the Wall came down, Drucker smiled and said, “I didn’t know it would happen so soon.”
  • In a conversation in 1986, Drucker said that the Soviet Union would collapse.  Henry Kissinger responded, “You are wrong.”  When Gorbachev delivered the speech dissolving the Soviet Union in 1991, Drucker was again prescient when he warned, “Now we have to be concerned about their resources and economics.”
  • In 1988, Drucker told Bill Donaldson, “When the economy turns down there will be a wide outbreak of bitterness for the corporate chieftains who pay themselves millions and paint themselves as heroes.”
  • In 1990, when most of business was still figuring out the implications of that Berlin Wall crumbling, Drucker wrote that communities of companies would be critical to business survival in the transnational world. We are now clearly, and sometimes painfully, in a globally networked world.
  • In 1992, Drucker wrote, there is no longer a “Western” history or a “Western” civilization.  There is only world history and world civilization.
  • In 1996, Drucker commented on the Internet boom, “It is not the access to information that is important.  It is how organizations, business, and every horizon will change as a consequence that will matter.”  We are now experiencing the reality of his statement.