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Drucker’s legacy: an interview with Joseph Maciariello

Here is an excerpt of an interview of Joseph A. Maciariello (photo right) conducted in 2009 by Alistair Craven for the Emerald Group. To read the complete interview, please click here.

Please click here to check out several other valuable resources, including one of Peter Drucker’s last videotaped conversations.

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You collaborated with Peter Drucker on many publications over the years. How do you reflect on your time working with him?

Working with Peter was the highlight of my professional life. I describe the experience in my introduction to The Daily Drucker.

He was very much a mentor to me. His standards were very high and he gently prodded me on beyond what I thought possible. I worked hard, but received a lot of help and advice from him. Eventually, I thought I had a good grasp of his thoughts on the topics we were working on, but I was always surprised by the new insights he brought to these topics. One of the most memorable came as he was editing a draft that became The Effective Executive in Action. He was much more familiar with the topics than I, even though I had studied them for years. He insisted on finishing the task one day in June 2005. I was worried about how this heavy workday would affect his health, so I became anxious when he started to take what I thought was a detour to reflect on a new biography on Henry Ford that he had just finished. When I left his home, it dawned on me that he was simply giving me another example of the need to focus on strengths, the fatal mistake made by Henry Ford when he fired his vice-president in charge of administration.

Ford was a manufacturing genius, not an outstanding general manager.

Drucker always believed that one should focus upon strengths, and with great strengths often come great weaknesses.

Drucker’s first book came out in 1939 and incredibly he was still contributing to the management literature in 2004.

Can you attempt to put into some perspective Drucker’s achievements and importance to the discipline of management?

Drucker codified the discipline of management, largely in his first two management books, Concept of the Corporation (1946) and The Practice of Management (1954). But these contributions were directed to an even larger objective – to create a society of functioning organizations. Here is how he answered when asked the same question on January 18, 1999:

"What do I consider my most important contribution?

•    That I early on – almost sixty years ago – I realized that MANAGEMENT has become the constitutive organ and function of the society of organizations;

•    That MANAGEMENT is not business management' – though it first attained attention in business – but the governing organ of ALL institutions of modern society;

•    That I established the study of MANAGEMENT as a DISCIPLINE in its own right";


•   "That I focused this discipline on people and power; on values, structure and constitution; AND ABOVE ALL ON RESPONSIBILITIES – that is focused the discipline of management on management as a truly LIBERAL ART."

Each of these contributions of Drucker can be unpacked in light of his entire body of work, and the investigator would be astounded to learn just how succinct this concise summary of Drucker’s work is.

It appears as the Epigraph to Management: Revised (2008)


*     *     *

Finally, are there any closing comments you wish to make?

I was a colleague of Peter Drucker for 26 years. He was a man of integrity and brilliance. He cared deeply about human beings and their development. His long-time friend Warren Bennis put it best in the foreword to Management Cases: Revised when he said:

“The truth is that nobody can replace Peter....the beauty, for those of us who are trying to follow in his footsteps, is that, as Isaac Newton once said, ‘We dwarfs have the good fortune of being able to stand on the shoulders of giants which allows us to see further.’” November 2009.

“Drucker had very mixed emotions about charisma. Because charismatic leaders are sometimes inflexible and narcissistic, they have done great damage.”

*     *     *

Joseph A. Maciariello is Horton Professor of Management at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management and Research Director of the Drucker Institute. He collaborated with Peter Drucker to publish The Daily Drucker (HarperCollins, 2004) and The Effective Executive in Action (HarperCollins, 2005). In addition, he has written two major articles providing a systematic, integrated description of some of the major works of Peter Drucker – “Peter F. Drucker on a Functioning Society” (Leader to Leader, Summer 2005), and “Peter F. Drucker on Executive Leadership and Effectiveness” (Leader of the Future 2, Jossey-Bass, September 2006).

He taught the course “Drucker on Management” for MBA and Executive MBA students for ten years and has prepared The Peter F. Drucker Curriculum Project for use at the Drucker/Ito School and for universities and professional societies throughout the world. The Drucker Curriculum Project includes a collaboratively taught course called “The Drucker Difference” first offered in 2007 at Claremont. Maciariello has revised Peter Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (HarperCollins, 1973) which was published in May 2008, and Drucker’s book Management Cases (HarperCollins, 1977) which was published January 2009.


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