A New Season Upon Us

In the last posting, I talked about how September is back-to-school month. (It certainly is in my house, as my four-year-old twin boys started their second year of school Tuesday).  As a result, I feel compelled to enlarge the scope of this blog’s postings to include not only commentary on editing and the business book industry, but on the facts and lessons taught to us by the best business books of today—and yesterday. I will continue to write posts on the business book industry, but will intersperse these kinds of postings as well.  

Of course, I have a vested interest in the late Peter Drucker, since my next book (due out middle of next month), is devoted to summarizing many of the lessons he taught us in the incredible 70 years  that he was writing and teaching. Dr. Drucker died in 2005, eight days short of his 96thbirthday. One interesting tidbit: he shared a birthday with Jack Welch, who has admitted that some of his best management moves were ignited by Peter Drucker’s writings (and meetings—Welch went to see the “Clairvoyant of Claremont,” [my moniker], just weeks ahead of him taking over as CEO and chairman of GE in 1981).

I was fortunate enough to spend a full day with Peter Drucker two years before his death. Armed with two tape recorders, I learned more in that one day than in editing a decade’s worth of business books.  Peter Drucker was that special. Here are a few reasons why:

While living in Germany he challenged the Nazis and risked his life by publishing a positive, short book (“a pamhlet really”), about a Jewish German political philosopher in 1933. The book was banned and burned by the Nazis, but Drucker knew before he wrote it that it would be: “It made it crystal clear where I stood; and I knew I had to make sure for my own sake that I would be counted, even if no one else cared,” he explained.       

He correctly predicted Hitler and the Holocaust in his first book, The End of Economic Man (John Day), which was published in 1939 (although much of it was written years earlier).

He has been correctly called the “Inventor of Management,” as he wrote what I call the grandfather of the modern day business book in 1946, Concept of the Corporation  (John Day). But that was only the beginning. In 1954 he wrote The Practice of Management  (Harper and Row), which many assert—including me—that it remains the best management book ever written.

Even bestselling co-author of In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters, was reported to say that everything in Excellence “can be found in some corner or another” of The Practice of Management. That’s quite an admission from Peters. Excellence, published in 1982, launched the modern day business book revolution and sold three million copies in its first four years alone.   

Drucker wrote 39 books in his lifetime, and all of his business book remain in print in at least one or more languages around the world. That’s an almost unbelievable accomplishment when one considers that today, the average business book remains in print for about five years. Even three years after his death, Drucker is being discovered by new readers in diverse countries across the globe, such as North Korea, Estonia, and China.  

Those are just a few of Drucker’s achievements which will hopefully whet your appetite to learn more about a management pioneeer who came to this country in 1937 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2002. Perhaps the most remarkable quality about Druckerwas his humility. He was one of the most humble people I had ever met, telling me he had “no business experience,” calling himself  “the world’s worst manager,” and always denying that he was “the inventor of management.” He also insisted that he got into management “totally by accident.” However, there is no denying that the Vienna-born Peter F. Drucker established management as a social discipline. That’s quite a significant accomplishment for the world’s worst manager with no business experience who got into the management field totally by accident.

Please come back on Friday as I switch hats to discuss another “inside business book publishing” topic.      





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