How Peter Drucker Avoided College and Became A Guru
LID Publishing are lucky enough to have published a few of William A. Cohen’s books around Drucker and his methods. Today we look at Cohen’s most recent book, Peter Drucker’s Way To The Top, and how Peter Drucker avoided college and became a guru.
“Millions of managers worldwide have heard the name, Peter Drucker. Even if you are not involved in management or business you may have heard that Drucker was the most famous management thinker over the last hundred years, and perhaps of all time. Few know, though, that Drucker could easily have qualified as a self-0help and motivational guru even though ‘guru’ was a term he did not agree with when describing himself. Drucker not only believed in and taught self-development, but he practised the methods he developed (which he called self-management) himself. As noted by Drucker researcher Bruce Rosenstein, self-development is a major theme throughout Drucker’s writings and teachings. Moreover, Drucker believed that every person was responsible for their own acquisition of learning and applying these principles in their practice of business to reach their personal best. And there was a real reason that this was important. “The most crucial and vital resource you have as an executive and as a manager is yourself”, he said.
In an article in Harvard Business Review, he wrote: “We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity. If you’ve got ambition, drive, and smarts, you can rise to the top of your chosen profession – regardless of where you started out. but with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren’t managing their knowledge workers’ careers. Rather we must each be our own Chief Executive Officer. Simply put, it’s up to you to carve out your place in the world of work and know when to change course. It’s up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span 50 years.”
How avoiding college led to a genius
Drucker claims to have developed his start because he was encouraged to participate in conversations with his father and his father’s friends. This may be common for many fathers, yet one doesn’t see their offspring being acknowledged as a genius or becoming known as the founding father of anything except perhaps grandchildren. But clearly Drucker started with something somehow and his ideas grew to be powerful and effective. ~He learned from his mistakes and constantly refined his principles over his long lifetime of 96 years. Again, although a fair number of individuals live well into their 90s today they do not necessarily become acknowledged as the ‘father of modern management’. Most tend to repeat the same types of mistakes in particular activities without any improvement at all./ Such was not the case with Drucker.
As he grew older, Drucker did not at first want to attend a college, at least the way most students do. Instead, he took an apprenticeship with a cotton-exporting company in Hamburg, Germany away from his parents. At that time, even more than today, an apprenticeship was mostly applied to the trades. The idea was very much like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Whether the intent was to become a sorcerer or something else, the apprentices were expected to spend their time mastering the work to learn the position. During his apprenticeship, Drucker had been attending night school, studying law at Hamburg University, even though his parents had the money and wanted him to study full-time in a prestigious institution as a more conventional student.l After just one year Drucker quit the apprenticeship but continued studying. Then he got his first job as a journalist afterwards writing for a regional newspaper, the Frankfurter General-Anzeiger. Moving to Frankfurt after Hamburg, he again went to night school at the University of Frankfurt. He explained to us, his own PhD students, that he graduated in the easiest doctorate that he could attain; a practical PhD in international and public law.
Until I wrote these words, it never occurred to me that all of us, his students at the time, were or had been senior executives and that we too were studying or working towards a practical PhD in his new PhD programme at what was then Claremont Graduate School. Today it is the Peter CF. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, part of Claremont Graduate University. Like Peter, we mostly wet to night classes., While we were required to take one or two courses in each discipline, we looked at no discipline in depth nor took a multitude of courses in a single chosen business speciality as most PhD students did then, and now. Therefore, while we considered the work challenging, our professors felt, for the most part, that we were getting an easy doctorate, rather than in-depth studies that would help us do research in a single discipline after the acquisition of our doctorates. This must have been very much like Drucker’s doctoral study in international and public law at the University of Frankfurt, a degree he completed in 1931. Drucker had designed this PhD, we had been told, to educate ‘super managers’ for the new challenges coming in the new country.”
About the book
Peter Drucker is an icon of the business world. The methods developed by this genius were so powerful that they are still used today in organizations all over the world – yet one of his most important contributions is still little known. Drucker had uncovered principles of self-development that he put into practice himself – principles that enabled him to reach all of his life goals.
For the first time, this book examines the self-development methods that Drucker created and practised – and offers vital and original lessons to anyone in business on how to accomplish any goal in any endeavour.
About the author
William A. Cohen was the first graduate of the doctoral program that Peter Drucker co-founded. What Drucker taught him changed his life. Shortly after graduating, Cohen was recommissioned in the US Air Force and rose to the rank of major general. Eventually, he became a full professor, management consultant, and the author of more than 50 books, while maintaining a nearly lifelong friendship with his former professor. In 2009 he was named a Distinguished Alumnus by Drucker’s school. Claremont Graduate University, and two years later he co-founded the non-profit California Institute of Advanced Management with the mission of offering affordable graduate degrees based on Drucker’s principles. He served as its president from 2010-2016. he now serves as president of the Institute of Leader Arts, an international training and consultancy company.
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