Peter Drucker Quotes
Wisdom from the giant of giants!
Searching for Peter Drucker quotes? Peter Drucker (1909 to 2005) influenced management thinking like few others. In our view his ideas should be essential reading on any MBA program or any business degrees.
The Happy Manager frequently draws on the wisdom and insights Drucker’s writing brought to management theory. So whether you are studying for a business management degree, or simply keeping yourself up-to-date enjoy reading this collection of Drucker quotes.
Since writing “The Practice of Management” in 1955, Drucker led the way in developing the modern discipline of management. No site discussing a “better way to manage” could omit the wisdom of Drucker.
In addition to the excellent selection of quotes below, you’ll also find many articles on this site which use Peter Drucker quotes to illustrate a point. Few have put things better than Drucker. For example, we discuss Drucker’s advice on looking to the future in our article: “Business Goal Setting Using the F Plan“. We also relate several of Drucker’s stories which powerfully illustrate his thinking on management.
In The Key Success Factor in Getting Things Done we use Drucker’s story about William Pitt the Younger to illustrate what really matters in management.
Some of Drucker’s thoughts on real leadership are distilled in a story about motivation in the workplace. This article asks the question – how do you define your work? Drucker’s story helps to answer that challenging but critical question.
We’ve included a wider selection of links to our articles built on Drucker’s wisdom at the end of this page. Surely the best place to start though is here, with some of Drucker’s most insightful quotes. They are as relevant for practicing managers, as they are for those studying a business and management degree, or those doing both on an executive MBA program. So here are some of our favourite Peter Drucker quotes – pointing to a better way to manage.
Thoughts to Make You Think!
Firstly, some Peter Drucker quotes which are short, to the point, and will hopefully give you cause to think:
- “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their jobs done.”
- “Time is the scarcest resource: and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”
- “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
- “All one has to do is to learn to say “no” if an activity contributes nothing.”
- “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits her and sells itself.”
Focus on Strengths
A major focus of “The Happy Manager”, is the recognition that a strength-based approach to management is needed. Although we might intuitively agree with this statement, so much of what we see in organisations is a focus on weaknesses and correcting problems. There is a growing emphasis on the need to address this mis-direction, to build on strengths rather than weaknesses, though this “modern” thinking is not really new at all.
Ever ahead of his time, Peter Drucker was advocating just such an approach, from as early as the 1950’s.
From one of his first books: the Practice of Management(1955), we can see an early Peter Drucker quote depicting a visionary theme which remained constant throughout his writing:
- “A man should never be appointed to a managerial position if his vision focuses on people’s weaknesses rather than on their strengths. The man who always knows what people cannot do, but never sees what they can do, will undermine the spirit of the organisation. Of course, a manager should have a clear grasp of the limitations of his people, but he should see these as limitations on what they can do, and as a challenge to them to do better.”
He went on in his later work to keep emphasising:
- “The task of an executive is not to change human beings. Rather as the Bible tells us in the parable of the talents, the task is to multiply the performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals.”
- “It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.”
In summary, Drucker’s advice on a strength-based approach is:
- “Use feedback analysis to identify your strengths. Then go to work on improving your strengths. Identify and eliminate bad habits that hinder the full development of your strengths. Figure out what you should do and do it. Finally, decide what you should not do.”
- “Know your strengths. Apply them to areas in your organisation where you can make a contribution. Make sure your values and the values of the organisation are compatible.”
How Does a Strength-based Approach Relate to the Way Organisations Develop People?
Drucker constantly emphasised the responsibility of an organisation in developing its people. As ever Drucker didn’t hold anything back when he argued that:
- “Any organisation develops people; it either forms them or deforms them.”
- “Any organisation develops people: it has no choice. It either helps them grow or stunts them.”
- “What do we know about developing people? Quite a bit, We certainly know what not to do. First, one does not try to build upon people’s weaknesses.”
- “Develop your people. Focus on their strengths. Then make high demands based on a person’s strengths. Finally, periodically view their performance.”
Drucker’s Good Questions
Asking good questions is a powerful way to focus on what matters. In our article “The Best Management Tools Ever: A Good Question” we ask how can you develop the right questions to ask.
What better place to start than with questions asked by a leading thinker? Here are some Peter Drucker quotes to help you ask the right questions. Firstly, one to ask yourself:
- “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?”
On the first duty of a manager:
- “What is the first duty – and the continuing responsibility – of the business manager? To strive for the best possible economic results from the resources currently employed or available.”
Questions to ask about where performance really matters:
- “In what area would excellence really have an extraordinary impact on the economic results of our business, to the point where it might transform the economic performance of the entire business?
- “In what areas would poor performance threaten to damage economic performance, greatly or at least significantly.”
- “In what areas would it make little difference whether we perform excellently or poorly?”
To find time-wasters ask:
- “What would happen if this were not done at all?”
A question to ask about the future:
- “What major change in the economy, market, or knowledge would enable our company to conduct business the way we really would like to do it, the way we would really obtain economic results?”
What about questions to ask when testing a good idea?
These Peter Drucker quotes demonstrate how he was able to make questions about crucial business issues resonate on a personal level:
- “Can we take action on this idea?”
- Or can we only talk about it?”
- “Can we really do something right away to bring about the kind of future we desire?”
- “Will it ‘produce economic results?'”
- “Do we really believe in the idea? Do we really want to be that kind of people, do thatkind of work, run that kind of business?
Performing Organisations: Enjoyment and Opportunity
Have you ever wondered how one of the most influential management thinkers of his time chose which clients he would work with? One of our favourite Peter Drucker quotes, poses that very question. The answer, in this and other quotes below, succinctly echoes a key element of “The Happy Manager” ethos:
- “I’m always asked how I know what kind of organisation to accept as a client. When you walk through the door, you know in two minutes whether they enjoy it. And if they don’t enjoy it, then I’d rather not work for them. But if they like it and they feel tomorrow is going to be better – that creates a totally different climate.”
- “Performing organisations enjoy what they’re doing.”
- “The first – and usually the best – opportunity for successful change is to exploit one’s own successes and build on them. Problems cannot be ignored. And serious problems have to be taken care of. But to be change leaders, enterprises have to focus on opportunities. They have to starve problems and feed opportunities.”
Drucker argues that
- “Those who perform love what they’re doing. I’m not saying they like everything they do…..Pianists have a wonderful expression I heard many years ago: “I practice until I have my life in my fingers.”
- The same is true of people I have seen in business who enjoy the work. Their routine is:it’s got to be done, and I enjoy it because I enjoy the work.“
Peter Drucker Quotes on Leadership
Another Peter Drucker quote has stood the test of time. Written in his 1955 book “The Practice of Management”, it defines an element of leadership which every good manager would be wise to consider:
- “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.”
(Apologies for the apparent gender bias. We’re sure it wasn’t intended!)
A Final Word from Drucker
As we have seen elsewhere, happiness is not simply the pursuit of pleasure. Happiness is seeking a balance between pleasure, commitment and meaning – a sense of purpose in one’s life. Happy managers will find it useful to apply this thinking to themselves, and to the people they manage. This final quote again echoes this fundamental philosophy of “The Happy Manager”. Drucker argued that the critical question we should all ask ourselves is not:
“How can I achieve?” but “What can I contribute?”
An excellent source of Peter Drucker quotes is his book The Daily Drucker containing insights and quotations for each day of the year, this book is well worth adding to your own management library. An essential desktop companion for every manager,iot contains an inspirational thought or idea for every day, followed by an action point. “The Daily Drucker is for anyone who seeks to understand and put to use Drucker’s powerful words and ideas.”
You can also see our must read page in our Book Shop which includes some of the books used to gather the Peter Drucker quotes found on this page.
If you’ve enjoyed reading these Peter Drucker quotes then, as promised, here is a wider selection of articles building on the wisdom of Drucker.
We’ve already pointed you to three of our key Peter Drucker articles:
- Business Goal Setting Using the F Plan
- The Key Success Factor in Getting Things Done
- Motivation in the Workplace
You might also be interested in Leadership Quality: Seeing the Bigger Picture. This article contains the famous stonecutter story, which illustrates Drucker’s knack for finding a different angle!
We end our article Valuing a Good Manager with a critical question from one of Drucker’s short stories. “Would you want one of your sons to be managed by this person…?”
Next you might like to read our articles based on his books. Books which we whole-heartedly endorse!
Peter Drucker on The Profession of Management. Peter Drucker is widely regarded as the father of modern-day management. This book is a collection of his landmark articles with the Harvard Business Review.
Finally, you’ll also find Peter Drucker quotes in our other quotes articles. These help to see how his depth of thinking can be used in a variety of contexts: