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The Leader of the Band Has Died

Peter Drucker, arguably the most prominent and insightful leadership thinker in our lifetime, died last week at age ninety-five. The author of more than thirty books--the first published in 1939--he was a pioneer among leadership teachers. Mr. Drucker was an early advocate of leadership as its own craft, not simply an extra duty that comes with a management title. Over a career that spanned sixty years, he foresaw the evolution of business and the effects those changes would have on motivating workers: He accurately predicted that companies would need fewer laborers and more knowledge workers. He encouraged leaders to share their organizations' mission with employees. And he understood that "management is about human beings."

Perhaps it was his upbringing--he fled Nazi Europe to come to the United States in 1937--but Peter Drucker distrusted charismatic leaders like the self-promoting celebrity CEOs who head so many of today's scandal-plagued corporations. Instead, he believed that employees are the key to any organization's success. Said Drucker, "The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I.' And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I.' They don't think 'I.' They think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job [is] to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done."

Good leaders everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Drucker. As does anyone who works for a good leader. So, in fact, do those of us trying to carry on his work.
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