Peter Drucker: Why His Writings Are As Relevant As Ever

Peter drucker, leadership, innovation

I write mostly about three topics: innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Recently, as I was rereading a book The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management, I realized that most of his writings were on the same topics. No wonder I always see him as one of the greatest thought leaders. Because Drucker passed away in 2005 and the majority of his books were written in the twentieth century, I expected many of the ideas expressed in these books to be outdated. Surprisingly, most of them are still relevant today even as we are experiencing tremendous shifts in how we work, lead, and innovate.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

I frequently talk about innovation and entrepreneurship together because entrepreneurship and innovation often overlap. Drucker wrote that for a business to innovate, it has to have entrepreneurial management, and the entire organization has to be built on the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation. Entrepreneurial companies are disciplined about entrepreneurship and treat it as a duty. To be successful, leaders of existing businesses, whether large or small, have to manage their companies as an entrepreneurial enterprise.

Drucker identified several sources of innovation opportunities:

  1. The company's own unexpected successes and failures
  2. Competitors' unexpected successes and failures
  3. Inconsistencies in the company's processes or customers' behavior
  4. New process needs
  5. Changes in industry or marketplace
  6. Changes in customer demographics
  7. Development of new knowledge

In addition to that, he highlighted how imperative it was to go out and speak with people, ask them questions, and listen to their responses in order to innovate successfully. Ultimately, innovation has to be simple and focused. Drucker said:

"All effective innovations are breathtakingly simple. Indeed, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, 'This is obvious. Why didn't I think of it?'"

Drucker recommended starting small, focusing on just one specific aspect at first, and having only a few people and little money. He believed this approach was much more effective than having grandiose ideas to revolutionize an industry. In Drucker's experience, the latter method was unlikely to work.

After decades of advising many organizations, Drucker found the following three conditions increase the chances of successful innovation:

  1. Innovation requires knowledge and ingenuity. It is hard and purposeful work that places high demands on diligence, persistence, and commitment.
  2. Innovators should build on their strengths and look for a wide range of opportunities.
  3. Innovation must be market-driven.

In the end, we need innovation and entrepreneurship to be an integral part of our organizations, economy, and society.


Everyone is interested in leadership. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books get published each year on the topic of leadership: how to become a strong leader, how to build a following, etc. Many of these books refer to leadership qualities and charisma. The prevailing messages in these books are that most successful leaders possess certain qualities, and you need to have charisma to be a leader. We often hear that in politics, when charismatic leaders are placed on a pedestal as the goalpost of true leadership.

Drucker disagreed with all of these premises. He cited examples of charismatic historical leaders, such as Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, who inflicted unbearable suffering on humanity. In contrast, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, and George Marshall possessed no charisma, but they were some of the most effective leaders in history. The same applies to leadership qualities. People like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill did not share any common leadership qualities, but they were exceptional leaders in their own right.

If leadership is not about charisma, and there are no special leadership qualities, then what is leadership? Leadership is work. It is thinking through, defining, and establishing the organization's mission, and then communicating it clearly to everyone else. Leadership is about setting goals and priorities, maintaining standards, and making compromises. Leadership is a responsibility, not rank or privilege. The final point Drucker makes about leadership is that it is based on trust. People have to believe that a leader means what he or she says. Without it, no one will follow the leader, and by definition, "a leader is someone who has followers."

Great leaders also understand that employees' values must be compatible with the organization's values. This point keeps coming up repeatedly throughout my research. All authors, in their own way, say that values should be the ultimate test in the way employees perceive their organizations, and it is the leader's responsibility to set the right tone.


Peter Drucker is often referred to as the father of modern management. He wrote more than 30 books, where he discussed strategies and innovative and entrepreneurial ideas for dealing with a changing world. The world is changing again, dramatically and rapidly. Even though Drucker started publishing his books in 1939, many of his principles and advice are still relevant today.

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