Drucker was a management genius. Some say that what one person can do or become, another can also. Does this apply to a management genius like Drucker? Some say yes . . . through modeling his success.
The Theory of Modeling
There is a theory which operationalizes this oft-quoted saying that what one person can do or become, another can also. This theory is known as "modeling." According to modeling, you simply uncover the actions by the individual whose success you want to duplicate, and you follow the same path and take the same actions. According to this theory, if you follow the same path and do the same things, you will get the same results.
Thist sounds simple and logical, but there are problems. For example, there are differences between Drucker and you and me, and for that matter among all of us who may be seeking to duplicate Drucker through modeling. There is no doubt every individual, is by definition an individual with his or her own physical, physiological, and psychological characteristics, personality and an infinite number of traits coming from birth or circumstances that make us different. Consequently the basic modeling material we are dealing between one individual and another is vastly different. Moreover all of us are shaped by different experiences in life. Consider for a moment Drucker’s upbringing and how it affected his actions later in life.
How Drucker Learned to Interact with the More Powerful
When Drucker was a boy, his father insisted that he participate in discussions with adult visitors in their home. This means that, even as a young man, he had the experience of interacting with many in the Drucker circle of family friends. This was especially valuable, because according to Drucker, it even included such luminaries as Sigmund Freud. Imagine getting to discuss today’s news and making your views known to someone to whom his father introduced as "the most important man in Europe" and who elevated psychology to unheard of levels.
Now this early development gave Drucker some advantages over many of the rest of us. It developed his ability to interact with those much more experienced and more powerful. It developed Drucker’s intellect. It gave him tremendous self-confidence. Let’s see what Drucker’s father’s approach to his son’s participation in adult matters accomplished for Drucker about 15 years later.
Drucker’s first Management Consulting Experience
Drucker didn’t plan on becoming a management consultant. We know this because he told his students that his first experience in consulting started not long after arriving in the U.S. when he was still only 32. Previously, Drucker had been a newspaper correspondent and journalist as well as an economic analyst at a bank and an insurance company in England after he had immediately left Germany when Hitler came to power. However, having a doctorate (though not in management, but in International and Public Law), Drucker’s was mobilized in a civilian capacity when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941.
Drucker received written notification that he was to work as a "management consultant." He said that he had no idea what a management consultant was. Drucker checked a dictionary, but the term couldn’t be found. He said he went to the library and the bookstore. "Today," he told us "you will find shelves of management titles. In those days, there was almost nothing. The few books didn’t include the term, ‘management consultant’ much less explain it." He asked several friends and had no better luck. They didn’t know what a management consultant was either.
On the appointed time and date Drucker proceeded to the Army colonel to whom he’d been assigned, wondering all the way exactly what he was getting in to. A receptionist asked him to wait and an unsmiling sergeant came to escort him to the colonel. This must have been a little intimidating for a young immigrant who not too many years earlier had fled from the military dictatorship of Nazi Germany with many adorned in one sort of uniform or another.
He was led into the office by yet another stern-faced assistant. The colonel glanced at Peter’s orders and invited him to be seated. He asked Drucker to tell him about himself. He questioned Drucker at some length about his background and education. But though they seemed to talk on and on, Drucker did not learn what the colonel’s office was responsible for, nor was he given any understanding as to what tasks he was expected to perform for the colonel as a "management consultant." It seemed as if they were talking round and round to no purpose.
Drucker was more than a little uncomfortable in dealing with the colonel. He hoped that he would soon get to the point and explain exactly what kind of work he would be involved in. He was growing increasingly frustrated. Finally, Drucker could take it no longer and spoke up. Remember, even though intimidated by the colonel and the whole military environment, because of his father’s demand that he interact with the more powerful, he did not sit still. "Please sir, can you tell me what a management consultant does?" he asked the colonel respectfully.
The colonel glared at him for what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few seconds and then responded: "Young man, don’t be impertinent." "By which," Drucker told us, "I knew that he didn’t know what a management consultant did either."
You really don’t have to interact with someone of the stature of a Freund to develop your ability to interact with others. However, you can’t sit back and just listen. You need to actually participate in the conversation by introducing your own ideas. Drucker knew that someone who did know what was expected of a management consultant had made this assignment. Having lived in England and read about Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes, Drucker knew what a "consulting detective" did. With that knowledge and the assumption that the colonel did not know anything about management consulting, Drucker asked direct questions about the colonel’s responsibilities and problems. In some ways this was the foundation of Drucker’s unique modus operandi in consulting: he asked questions. These questions led to additional questions, and eventually the colonel himself concluded where the "impertinent" fit in and what he wanted him to do. Drucker then laid out some options about how this work should be accomplished, and got the colonel’s agreement to proceed. The colonel was not only well-satisfied, he was clearly relieved. He accepted Drucker’s proposals in their entirety. This proved to be Drucker’s first successful consulting engagement. So, Peter Drucker was not only the father of modern management; he may have also been the father of modern management consulting as well.
Back to the Modeling Issue
Now if your father raised you with the "children should be seen and not heard" philosophy, would you have responded in the same way to the colonel’s demand that you "not be impertinent," or would you have simply bowed your head and responded meekly, "Sorry, sir." If you had never read Arthur Conan Doyle and was unfamiliar with the responsibilities of Sherlock Holmes as a "consulting detective" would you have been able to further respond with the suggestions made on the spot by Drucker? Chances are you would probably have been much less reticent to speak. So what’s to be done if you want to model Drucker, or anyone else?
How to Model Someone Even Though You May be Missing Something
Drucker may have had better than average encouragement at home, but he started early in his career to do something additional: he began an enormous amount of reading. Even while studying for a law degree, he read extensively both fiction and nonfiction . . . everything from science fiction to romance novels. Drucker missed nothing. His wife Doris told interviewers that even after he became established in his career he continued to read extensively. You might have thought that these books were exclusively about business and management. This would have been wrong. Although he scanned many business books, what he read mostly according to Doris Drucker was history. And you can see in reading Drucker’s writings even today how he applied the lessons of history in any situation not only in management, but to everything he wrote.
Now, we are all pretty busy. Even though we may acknowledge the importance of reading, it is hard to set aside much time. Yet if we take the time to schedule a certain brief period, we can do our reading every day and accomplish an amazing amount of reading over a variety of subjects in a very short period of time. Reading allows us to catch up on many experiences that we may have missed in real life. Through reading combined with a little imagination and creativity, we can begin to gain the necessary tools and can model Drucker or anyone else.