Much has been said and written of Peter Drucker, and yet there still remains a little known aspect to his life. Drucker hardly mentioned his own personal philosophy1 and only later, after his death, was greater consideration given to his innermost convictions and motives.
Christian thinking as a foundation for management theory
The Christian aspect to Drucker’s thinking is shown by these quotations from his works. (The summaries that follow may encourage you to read Drucker while considering this aspect.)
1. The nature of humanity
“The only basis of freedom is the Christian concept of man’s nature: imperfect, weak, a sinner, … yet made in God’s image and responsible for his actions.”
(The Future of Industrial Man. p. 110. 1942)
The Christian concept of mankind’s dignity presumes that human beings act autonomously and responsibly. It also rests on the belief that we are social and spiritual beings, whose life-journey may involve wrongdoing, be sinful and God-denying, and therefore we need moral orientation and spiritual salvation. It follows that human development of those working in a business enterprise must be a primary goal of that enterprise; and the strict separation of work and life is an obstacle to our personal development.2
2. Role of business enterprises
“Business enterprises … are organs of society. They do not exist for their own sake, but to fulfill a specific social purpose and to satisfy a specific need of a society, a community, or individuals.”
(Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. p. 39. 1973)
Managerial power must have social legitimacy: a business enterprise should generate a positive economic performance, help employees to develop as humans, and also benefit society. Good business leadership means understanding that making a positive contribution to society is the superordinate purpose of a business enterprise.
3. Role of management
“Management is deeply involved in spiritual concerns – the nature of man, good and evil.”
(The New Realities. p. 223. 2003)
The art (not science) of professional management is what used to be called a Liberal art. It presupposes a wide practical understanding of religious and social philosophy (morality, norms and rules), history (myths and facts), sociology (group behaviour), psychology (leading people), economics and business administration. This knowledge is essential for prudence and leadership. Management is an art or skill that demands practical experience. Drucker’s adage that management is about human beings must be the guiding principle of management. In the same way, managers have an inherent mission to act as a moral force: to accept the moral spectrum of human behavior and employ it to best advantage of their business enterprise as well as the people involved and affected.3
4. Business ethics
“But if (a man) lacks in character and in integrity – no matter how knowledgeable, how brilliant, how successful – he destroys. He destroys people, the most valuable resource of the enterprise.”
(Management. p. 287, 2008)
Ethics is all-embracing. ‘Business’ ethics, if wrongly understood as a mere means to an end is an unacceptably restricted and improper form of a general moral imperative.4 Drucker considered belief to be the only true basis for ethical behavior. Laws must be clear and consistent so they can serve as binding rules of behavior. Regulations need sanctions. Freedom is only acceptable in combination with responsibility. Self-determination requires a moral justification.
Skepticism as well as a public profession of Christian beliefs
In the final two decades of his life, Drucker distanced himself from the expansion of big business, the selfish behaviour of managerists, and insatiable U.S. consumerism. This was wholly consistent with his personal philosophy. He described himself as a Christian-conservative anarchist. However, Drucker was undoubtedly also a man of integrity. He often said he considered himself no different to any other Christian; what really mattered was an unrelenting effort to become a true Christian; as he put it, “You can only hope to become a Christian”.
An understanding of responsibility in economy and society – his noble inheritance
As a social-ecologist – that is how Drucker characterized himself throughout his life – the world of institutions, of corporations and their managers, became the primary object of his studies. Especially in his later years, he attached great importance to non-profit organizations that assume responsibility for ensuring beneficial social progress: schools, universities, hospitals, welfare institutions, charitable trusts and organizations. He considered himself a trustee of effective, properly functioning organizations and an advocate of proper leadership. At the same time, he was historically aware of the tendency for civilized order to collapse. He was deeply skeptical of the human desire for power.
One abiding concern of Peter Drucker was the dualities of freedom and power, authority and responsibility, progress and conservation, good and evil, worldly actions and spiritual fulfillment. Drucker believed in the sanctity of spiritual creation. He considered traditional Christian values to be a type of practical wisdom and an ethical basis for responsible corporate leadership.
 According to Timo Meynhardt, University of St. Gallen, and Peter Paschek, Vienna and Berlin (author and friend of Peter Drucker) and, especially in the USA, by Joseph A. Maciariello, like-minded theorist and professor in Claremont, California, and Jack Beatty.
 Notable is the conclusion that “The circumstance that the masses replace order through organizationability if order is not available to them, that they pray to a demon if they cannot find a god to worship or a sense of humanity to respect, proves by the inherent intensity this takes, that people need order, belief and a rational concept of humanity.”
 “… can turn man into a biological machine run by manipulation of fears and emotions, a being without beliefs, without values, without principles, without compassion, without pride, without humanity altogether.”
(Landmarks of Tomorrow. p. 258. Transaction Publishers¸ Brunswick, N.J., USA. 1996.)
• Meynhardt, Timo
The practical wisdom of Peter Drucker: roots in the Christian tradition.
Journal of Management Development. Vol. 29, No 7/8, pp. 616-625. 2010.
• Hoefle, Manfred
Managerismus – Unternehmensführung in Not. Wiley. Weilheim, Germany. 2010.
• Maciariello, Joseph, A., Linkletter, Karen
Drucker’s Lost Art of Management. McGrawHill. New York. 2011.
• Pearce, Craig, L., Marciariello, Joseph, A., Yamawaki Hideki
The Drucker Difference – What the World’s Greatest Management Thinker Means to Today’s Business Leaders. McGrawHill. New York. 2009.