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Vol. 7, No. 9
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102  

Extraordinary achievements demand extraordinary leaders.


Recent Linked Articles by Dr. Cohen not  Published  in the Journal of Leadership Applications:

The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership from Human Resources IQ

Integrity is Not About Profit from Human Resources IQ

Tough Times from Leadership Excellence


© 2009 William A. Cohen, PhD

From the Forthcoming Book Drucker on Leadership to be published by Jossey-Bass in November 2009

Cohen has written with clarity and authority about the major challenges facing leaders today. And Cohen, like Drucker, emphasizes responsibility and integrity in leadership, qualities so desperately needed today. I strongly recommend this book to you.  – Joseph A. Maciariello, Horton Professor of Management, Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management and Co-Author of The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker and Management by Peter F. Drucker

    Cohen’s unique relationship with Peter Drucker, as student and friend, allows him to extract valuable leadership lessons from Drucker’s writings and teachings on management.  Bill Cohen’s “labor of love” provides the essential lessons for leaders straight from the Father of Modern Management. – Ronald E. Riggio, Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, and director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College

For those who aspire to lead – and we need a new generation of Drucker— like leaders in organizations in every country around the world —         Bill Cohen distills the essential leadership lessons from the world’s greatest management thinker.        Ira A. Jackson, Dean and Professor of   Management, Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management


























Through a blend of anecdote and analysis, Bill Cohen has given us great insight into Peter Drucker’s thinking on leadership—an aspect of Drucker’s  work that many have misconstrued or overlooked altogether. This is a new prism through which to view Drucker and, as such, a valuable contribution  to the field. –      Rick Wartzman, Executive Director, The Drucker Institute


Bill Cohen’s Drucker on Leadership is the best collection of Peter Drucker’s unique insights, deep wisdom, and practical advice I have  ever read. Cohen channels Drucker as only a three decades-long colleague and student can. You will find the lessons highly accessible, immensely enjoyable, and wonderfully fresh.  –    Jim Kouzes, Award-winning co-author of the bestselling, The Leadership Challenge

    What Cohen learned as Peter Drucker’s student, and their personal relationship afterwards, changed Bill’s life. Reading Drucker on Leadership will change the way you look at and apply leadership forever.       Bruce Rosenstein, author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life

I read Dr. Cohen’s books in Chinese, and with the help of a translator, reviewed a draft of Drucker on Leadership in English. Peter F. Drucker helped me found the Peter F. Drucker Academy in China. It was a pleasure to see his concepts and what he instructed me brought together in one place and explained so that they could be applied by any executive. This is a valuable and useful book.       Minglo Shao, Chairman and CEO of the Bright China Group, Founder of the Peter F. Drucker Academy

© 2009 William A. Cohen, PhD  

Peter Drucker is known the world over as “The Father of Modern Management.” He was also my professor and mentor at what is now the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, and I was his first executive PhD graduate. Peter passed away three years ago at the age of 96. Still his work lives on and Drucker Societies exist all over the work studying and teaching his methods and concepts as he revealed them in more than 39 books and hundreds of articles, video tapes and other media. I’ve spent the last three years reviewing this material focused on one aspect of his genius: leadership. The result of this effort will be published by Jossey-Bass, a division of John Wiley & Sons in November. The book includes all the details and how to apply his model of effective leadership which I developed based on a review of all his work. What follows is an overview of his five essential elements of effective leadership.

Drucker’s Model for Effective Leadership

After much research, I concluded that Drucker’s model for effective leadership rests on five basic components:

·        Strategic planning by the leader as the foundation

·        Business ethics and personal integrity as a necessary condition

·        Leadership as taught in the military as a baseline model

·        Correct perception and application of the psychological principles of motivation

·        The use of the marketing concept as a general approach to all leadership

Much of this may surprise readers, and even an introduction to his material and views requires some explanation.

Strategic Planning by the Leader

Peter admonished us in class: “You cannot predict the future, but you can create it.” More popularly this is stated as “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Either way, his method of creation was strategic planning by the leader. I emphasize, “by the leader.” While many organizations have strategic planning divisions, the CEO may do little than “sign off” on the work done by strategic planning professionals.


Peter looked at this differently. It was the first priority of the leader and had to be done by the leader. He taught that strategic planning is not about making decisions in the future, since decisions could only be made now, in the present. So what we were really talking about was making decisions now to create a desired future. This implied reaching the goals or objectives we set regardless of the environmental conditions we might later encounter, and this would require adjustments and changes along the way. It was crucial to start with the leader’s objectives derived from the definition of the mission of the organization or “what business were we in?” Only then could we decide on the actions we needed to take now, in the present, to realize these goals sometime in the future. So this the first, and very important element in Peter’s model: The leader must creat the organization’s future, and this is any leader’s primary responsibility

Business Ethics and Personal Integrity

Drucker was one of the most ethical individuals that I have ever met. If strategic planning was the foundation of leadership, ethics and personal integrity was a necessary condition for leadership effectiveness. In his earliest writings on the subject he stated that leadership was exercised properly only through character, and though followers might forgive a leader much, they would not forgive him a lack of integrity. However, Peter’s views on ethics were different and ran contrary to some of what others taught. He drew distinctions between what was called business ethics and personal integrity. While both were necessary for effective leadership, he was very cautious of absolute interpretations of what was and what was not defined as “ethical business behavior.” He tested many different ethical approaches and found them all wanting as a universal ethical code for business. In the end, he settled on four Confucian concepts and the exhortation of an ancient Greek physician as his primary test.  Drucker’s viewed business ethics and personal integrity as necessary conditions for successful leadership. However, his conclusions were based not only on ethics from a single source, but resulted from studies of ethics as practiced in many different cultures and at different times. He concluded that leaders might well adopt the formula that the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates recommended to all doctors: Primum Non Nocere!: Above All Do No Harm.

Modeling Military Leadership

Some may be surprised that modeling military leadership was one of Drucker’s five components for effective leadership, although he certainly left many clues and documented this in his writings and elsewhere. Drucker  made many favorable references to the military in the classroom, but there was also much more in what he wrote. For example, that the first and best book on leadership was written by Xenophon two millennia ago. Xenophon was a Greek general who had fought in Persia. In Kyropaidaia and another book, Anabasis, Xenophon wrote about military leadership. So here we have “The Father of Modern Management” recommending a book on combat leadership as the best book of its type ever written on leadership for business leaders — not in an adaptation of a “business is war” philosophy, but simply because what was taught was good practical leadership. In an article “Leadership: More Doing Than Dash,” which appeared inThe Wall Street Journal, Peter used examples of military leaders Generals Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur, Field Marshal Montgomery, and Julius Caesar.

Much later Drucker’s beliefs regarding military leadership received more attention. This exposure to his ideas about the military occurred mainly from Frances Hesselbein’s books, Hesselbein on Leadership and in Be, Know, Do, a book Hesselbein  adapted from the official Army Leadership Manual and co-authored with General Eric K. Shinseki,  a former Army Chief of Staff, and now Secretary of the Veterans Administration.  From where did Hesselbein’s leadership ideas originate? She was the most successful CEO ever of The Girl Scouts of America. Drucker said she could have been a successful CEO of any corporation in America. Today she run the Leader to Leader Institute in New York, and most recently she was appointed to the Visiting Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In recommending Hesselbein’s adaptation of the Army Leadership Manual, Drucker wrote: “The Army trains and develops more leaders than do all other institutions together – and with a lower casualty rate.” The book covers what Drucker felt should be modeled, and how to adapt it to other organizations.

Correct Perception and Application of the Psychological Principles of Motivation

Drucker was very sensitive to the role and function of the worker. As he saw it, companies were increasingly dependent on the “knowledge worker,” a term he had created to denote the new worker, who worked primarily with his mind.  He resented it when management talked of the cost of labor. And he didn’t like to think of managing workers either. To Peter, labor was not an expense; labor was truly added value, a resource, potentially the greatest resource that an organization possessed. Consequently, managers didn’t “manage” workers, they led them, and there is a huge difference. Moreover, Peter took on some of the leading researchers in motivation and said that they were wrong in part or total. Unfortunately, many of these theories, which Peter considered misapplied, are still followed wrongly today.  He came to an unusual conclusion: for optimal motivation, it was necessary to treat regular, paid, full-time employees as if they were volunteers. Anything else would result in knowledge workers being less motivated and making it impossible to reach their peak performance potential.  In Drucker’s view, helping others to reach their personal best, not just perform adequately, must be the goal of every leader.

Applying the Marketing Concept to Leadership

Drucker’s use of the marketing concept and its application to leadership was one of the biggest surprises when I started investigating and analyzing Drucker’s ideas. I had already concluded that leadership and salesmanship shared the important element of persuasion and I had begun looking at comparative literature in both disciplines when Peter published a book, Management Challenges for the 21st Century. In a chapter entitled “Management’s New Paradigms” he restated many of the ideas he spoke of years earlier in the classroom including treating all workers as if they were volunteers, mentioned previously. However in this new book he went further and called them “partners.” He wrote further that partners couldn’t be ordered — they had to be persuaded. But then he went on to make a rather startling statement:  Since they had to be persuaded, leadership was “a marketing job.” What did Drucker mean by “a marketing job?”

Modern marketing rests on the “marketing concept.” The basis of the marketing concept is that firms should seek to discover and then to satisfy the needs of their customers rather than primarily convincing prospects to purchase existing products or services. In class, Drucker taught that if marketing were done perfectly, selling would be unnecessary. However to practice marketing correctly, it would be necessary to understand the needs of each group or customer segment, including their values, and behaviors in order to approach them in a manner that they would prefer and could relate to. In this way, a company would develop products and promote them in the way that the customer considered important rather than what was considered important by the marketer.  What he meant in describing leadership as a marketing job was that leadership had to be done in the same way. Leaders must know and understand those they would lead, and lead in a way that they can relate to.  Drucker’s unique insight was that marketing concepts needed to be applied to leadership..

Yes, “The Father of Modern Management” left clues from his teachings in the classroom, one-on-one conversations, presentations, books and articles. With these clues I have attempted to put together his ideas about what we can do to make maximum use of his genius in applying what he taught in order to lead with integrity, effectiveness, and honor. Moreover, Drucker gave us one of the most profound definitions of leadership ever written:

 “Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.”

For more information, contact me directly by e-mail at or telephone (626) 794-5998. Yes we do give international seminars — The U.S. country code is 01.



“Knowledge workers cannot be managed – they must be led.”

– Peter F. Drucker