Peter Drucker’s Path to Success in Work and Life

By Bruce Rosenstein

A growing number of us will have long careers that stretch well beyond traditional retirement years—either by choice or necessity. This requires us to stay in demand and engage in excellent work. We are moving into a world where professional identity has more to do with your continually evolving portfolio of work projects, rather than your job title.

A terrific role model for this daunting new world is Peter Drucker, the legendary father of modern management, who died in 2005 at 95. He lived a life that included fulfilling work, and he kept active until nearly the end of his life. For instance, in the final year of his life, he released the best-selling book, The Daily Drucker, and had articles published in Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and other publications.

He maintained a mindset that was focused on the future, but was rooted in actions and decisions that made the most of the present. He knew that—despite and because of its unpredictable nature—the future must be consciously built and created.

So make it a priority to learn from Drucker’s example of a successful career that spanned more than 70 years. With the proper thought and intentions, you can apply these five principles based on his life and work:

1. Diversify your efforts. Drucker lived a three-pronged career: author of more than 40 books and writer for many publications; consultant to major corporations, nonprofits and schools; and professor at the Drucker School in California. 

Ask yourself: Where can I express my talents and reach different people in different ways?

2. Develop and nurture your personal brand. The Drucker name has immediate recognition, with a reputation for quality and integrity. You know you are getting something of significance when you read his books and articles.

Ask yourself: What would I like people to think when they hear my name?

3. Maintain a global outlook. There remains a worldwide readership for Drucker’s work. He regularly conducted European and Asian lecture tours, and his books have been translated into many languages.

Ask yourself: Where could my potential audiences be located?

4. Remain relevant. Living and working longer means that we have to remain relevant to people of all ages. Drucker nurtured his talents and abilities over the years so that he could stay in demand. Throughout his life, he engaged in self-study systems in which he intensively studied a subject for months or years at a time, through reading and talking to experts.

Ask yourself: How can I improve areas of life that are most crucial to my ongoing success and satisfaction?

5. Create work that helps other people. Drucker built his career and reputation around work that helped other individuals, as well as organizations. His consulting helped businesses and other institutions carry out their missions more effectively. His writing continues to be a source of inspiration for readers worldwide. In addition, he had a profound impact on his students, many of whom stayed in touch with him long after their school years.

Ask yourself: Who benefits from my work, and how can I reach even more people in new and entrepreneurial ways?

Finally, heed Drucker’s advice to focus on opportunities rather than problems—on the future, rather than the past. When in doubt, think about his succinct call to action: “The first priority for one’s own development is to strive for excellence.”

Bruce Rosenstein is a management writer and speaker. A former researcher and writer for USA Today, he is managing editor of Leader to Leader and author of Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way and Living in More Than One World. For more information, visit

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