Work-Life Lessons From Peter DruckerBy Bruce Rosenstein | Posted 2010-04-08 Print
Peter Drucker’s teachings on personal growth—or self-management—are as profound as his views on organizational management.
Peter Drucker, “the father of modern management,” turned management theory into a serious discipline. In a legendary career that spanned almost 70 years, he revolutionized modern business practices, influencing such far-reaching developments as decentralization, privatization and empowerment. Drucker was among the first to address the emergence of the information society and, in 1959, coined the now-defining term “knowledge worker.”
Despite Drucker’s prominence in the business world, most people don’t know that his teachings on personal growth—or self-management—are as profound as his views on organizational management. He personified the value of creating and living a “total life” with diverse interests, relationships and pursuits—what he called “living in more than one world.”
That way, when you have a setback in one area—such as dealing with a layoff—you can soften the blow by developing other areas of strength and support. You can also add new meaning and dimensions to your life and, with activities such as volunteer work, make a difference in the lives of others. So, how do you create a total life? Consider these five key elements, which Drucker exemplified.
1. Practicing self-development: Self-development is a major theme throughout Drucker’s writings and teachings. “What matters,” he wrote, “is that the knowledge worker, by the time he or she reaches middle age, has developed and nourished a human being rather than a tax accountant or a hydraulic engineer.”
Think about your life, both as it is now and where you’d like it to go. Consider not just your work, but also your life outside of work. Assess what’s working, what’s not and what you might want to add or subtract.
2. Identifying and developing your unique strengths: The concept of core competencies may have been created for organizations, but it applies to individuals as well. Drucker noted that, in his experience, few people could articulate their areas of strength.
Consider what’s unique about what you do, and in what areas you excel and contribute the most, both at work and outside of work. Focus on those strengths—your own core competencies—and find new ways to cultivate and cherish them.
3. Creating a parallel or second career: Drucker advocated creating a parallel career in areas such as teaching, writing or working in nonprofit organizations. He also encouraged developing a second career, often by doing similar work in a different setting. For instance, a lawyer might move from a traditional law firm to a legal nonprofit dedicated to a personally meaningful cause.
While still in your main job, start thinking about possibilities for a parallel or second career. Consider how these possibilities match your values, experience and education, and what shifts you might need to make in your life to support such changes.
4. Exercising your generosity: An essential part of living in more than one world, Drucker believed, is displaying a sense of generosity. Sharing your time and talents in areas such as volunteerism, social entrepreneurship and mentoring provides opportunities to contribute. It also offers personal benefits—from broadening your circle of friends and colleagues to deepening your life experience.
Think about what happens outside of your workplace; then consider ways you can exercise your own generosity.
5. Teaching and learning: Education plays a key role in Drucker’s vision of a strong, functioning society. He believed that knowledge workers must start learning during their formal schooling and continue throughout their lives. It’s up to them, he added, to incorporate continuous learning as a natural part of their daily life.
Consider your own priorities for learning, as well as how you learn best. You might also want to teach. As Drucker noted, “No one learns as much as the person who must teach his subject.”
“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” Drucker advised. So, take a deep breath, start where you are and move toward your total life one step at a time.
Bruce Rosenstein is the author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life. A former business writer and librarian at USA Today, he has studied, interviewed and written about Peter Drucker for more than two decades.
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