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Leader of the Future

(The Drucker Foundation)

about Peter Drucker — his other books
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leader of the future

Amazon links:

The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies and Practices for the Next Era

The Leader of the Future 2: Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the New Era (J-B Leader to Leader Institute/PF Drucker Foundation)

Leader of the Future 2 contents




Not Enough Generals Were Killed

I have been working with organizations of all kinds for fifty years or more — as a teacher and administrator in the university, as a consultant to corporations, as a board member, as a volunteer.

Over the years, I have discussed with scores — perhaps even hundreds — of leaders their roles, their goals, and their performance.

I have worked with manufacturing giants and tiny firms, with organizations that span the world and others that work with severely handicapped children in one small town.

I have worked with some exceedingly bright executives and a few dummies, with people who talk a good deal about leadership and others who apparently never even think of themselves as leaders and who rarely, if ever, talk about leadership.

The lessons are unambiguous.

The first is that there may be “born leaders,” but there surely are far too few to depend on them.

Leadership must be learned and can be learned — and this, of course, is what this book was written for and should be used for.

But the second major lesson is that “leadership personality,” “leadership style,” and “leadership traits” do not exist.

Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in a half century, some locked themselves into their office and others were ultragregarious.

Some (though not many) were “nice guys” and others were stern disciplinarians.

Some were quick and impulsive; others studied and studied again and then took forever to come to a decision.

Some were warm and instantly “simpatico”; others remained aloof even after years of working closely with others, not only with outsiders like me but with the people within their own organization.

Some immediately spoke of their family; others never mentioned anything apart from the task in hand.

Some leaders were excruciatingly vain — and it did not affect their performance (as his spectacular vanity did not affect General Douglas MacArthur’s performance until the very end of his career).

Some were self-effacing to a fault — and again it did not affect their performance as leaders (as it did not affect the performance of General George Marshall or Harry Truman).

Some were as austere in their private lives as a hermit in the desert; others were ostentatious and pleasure-loving and whooped it up at every opportunity.

Some were good listeners, but among the most effective leaders I have worked with were also a few loners who listened only to their own inner voice.

The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no “charisma” and little use either for the term or for what it signifies.

All the effective leaders I have encountered — both those I worked with and those I merely watched — knew four simple things:

1. The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.

Some people are thinkers.

Some are prophets.

Both roles are important and badly needed.

But without followers, there can be no leaders.

2. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired.

He or she is someone whose followers do the right things.

Popularity is not leadership.

Results are.

3. Leaders are highly visible.

They therefore set examples.

4. Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money.

It is responsibility.

Regardless of their almost limitless diversity with respect to personality, style, abilities, and interests, the effective leaders I have met, worked with, and observed also behaved much the same way:

1. They did not start out with the question, “What do I want?”

They started out asking, “What needs to be done?

2. Then they asked, “What can and should I do to make a difference?

This has to be something that both needs to be done and fits the leader’s strengths and the way she or he is most effective.

3. They constantly asked, “What are the organization’s mission and goals?

What constitutes performance and results in this organization?”

The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Nonprofit Organization and MBO: A User’s Guide

4. They were extremely tolerant of diversity in people and did not look for carbon copies of themselves.

It rarely even occurred to them to ask, “Do I like or dislike this person?”

But they were totatly—fiendishly—intolerant when it came to a person’s performance, standards, and values.

5. They were not afraid of strength in their associates.

They gloried in it.

Whether they had heard of it or not, their motto was what Andrew Carnegie wanted to have put on his tombstone: “Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself.”

6. One way or another, they submitted themselves to the “mirror test” — that is, they made sure that the person they saw in the mirror in the morning was the kind of person they wanted to be, respect, and believe in.

This way they fortified themselves against the leader’s greatest temptations—to do things that are popular rather than right and to do petty, mean, sleazy things.

Finally, these effective leaders were not preachers; they were doers.

In the mid 1920s, when I was in my final high school years, a whole spate of books on World War I and its campaigns suddenly appeared in English, French, and German.

For our term project, our excellent history teacher — himself a badly wounded war veteran told each of us to pick several of these books, read them carefully, and write a major essay on our selections.

When we then discussed these essays in class, one of my fellow students said, “Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence.

Why was it?

Our teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, “Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying.”

Effective leaders delegate a good many things; they have to or they drown in trivia.

But they do not delegate the one thing that only they can do with excellence, the one thing that will make a difference, the one thing that will set standards, the one thing they want to be remembered for.

They do it.

It does not matter what kind of organization you work in; you will find opportunities to learn about leadership from all organizations — public, private, and nonprofit.

Many people do not realize it, but the largest number of leadership jobs in the United States is in the nonprofit, social sector.

Nearly one million nonprofit organizations are active in this country today, and they provide excellent opportunities for learning about leadership.

The nonprofit sector is and has been the true growth sector in America’s society and economy.

It will become increasingly important during the coming years as more and more of the tasks that government was expected to do during the last thirty or forty years will have to be taken over by community organizations, that is, by nonprofit organizations.

The Leader of the Future is a book for leaders in all sectors: business, nonprofit, and government.

It is written by people who themselves are leaders with proven performance records.

It can — and should — be read as the definitive text on the subject.

It informs and stimulates.

The first section of this book looks at the future of organizations and examines the role of leaders in the emerging society of organizations.

The second part of the book gives vivid accounts of today’s and tomorrow’s leaders in action.

It then turns to look at leadership development strategies, and it concludes with some powerful personal statements from effective leaders.

This is a book about the future.

But I hope that it will also be read as a call to action.

I hope that it will first challenge every reader to ask, “What in my organization could I do that would truly make a difference?

How can I truly set an example?”

And I hope that it will then motivate each reader to do it.




  • Leader of the future (The Drucker Foundation)
    • Leading the Organization of the Future
      • The New Language of Organizing and Its Implications for Leaders by Charles Handy
      • Leading the De-Jobbed Organization by William Bridges
      • Leading from the Grass Roots by Sally Helgesen
      • Creating Organizations with Many Leaders by Gifford Pinchot
      • Leading Learning Organizations: The Bold, the Powerful, and the Invisible by Peter M. Senge
      • Leadership and Organizational Culture by Edgar H. Schein
      • Leading a Diverse Work Force by John W. Work
      • Turning the Organizational Pyramid Upside Down by Ken Blanchard
    • Future Leaders in Action
      • World-Class Leaders: The Power of Partnering by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
      • Seven Lessons for Leading the Voyage to the Future by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner
      • Leaders Who Shape and Keep Performance-Oriented Culture by James L. Heskett, Leonard A. Schlesinger
      • The "How to Be" Leader by Frances Hesselbein
      • On Future Leaders by Richard Beckhard
      • Peacetime Management and Wartime Leadership by Judith M. Bardwick
      • A Recipe for Glue by David M. Noer
    • Learning to Lead for Tomorrow
      • Three Roles of the Leader in the New Paradigm by Stephen R. Covey
      • Developing Three-Dimensional Leaders by James F. Bolt
      • New Skills for New Leadership Roles by Caela Fatten, Beverly L. Kaye
      • The Ultimate Leadership Task: Self-Leadership by Richard J. Leider
      • The Following Part of Leading by Douglas K. Smith
      • Credibility x Capability by Dave Ulrich
      • Learning from Past Leaders by Warren Wilhelm
      • Ask, Learn, Follow Up, and Grow by Marshall Goldsmith
    • Executives on the Future of Leadership
      • The Leader Who Serves by C. William Pollard
      • A Constitutional Model of Leadership by Alfred C. DeCrane, Jr.
      • Either/Or Yields to the Theory of Both by Alex Mandl, Deepak Sethi
      • Key Leadership Challenges for Present and Future Executives by William C. Steere, Jr.
      • Energy and Leadership by William N. Plamondon
      • The Puzzles of Leadership by Steven M. Bornstein, Anthony F. Smith
      • An "Outsider's" View of Leadership by Sara E. Meléndez
      • Growing Tomorrow's Leaders by George B. Weber


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving toward unimagined futures.

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working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then figure out a coping plan for what you’ve rejected.

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