Peter Drucker in 2020: the challenge and privilege of transformation by Esther Clark

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Peter Drucker predicted that by 2020 a new world – completely different from our grandparents’ reality – would exist. Drucker, father of modern management, explained in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review, that “every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions.”

Drucker Forum 2020

There are many reasons to believe that in 2020 we are in the middle of such a transformation, and the implications of it were debated at the recent Global Drucker Forum. This year’s theme of “leadership everywhere” was particularly apt for 2020 and the trials and transformation we are experiencing globally. Participants and leaders connected from everywhere to discuss Dismantling Bureaucracy, Leading for the Greater Good, Remote Leadership, and Leading Oneself.

And while this year’s Global Drucker Forum brought the world’s management thinkers, entrepreneurs and executives together online and into our virtual offices, studios and homes, it also welcomed in artists and musicians. The art, performance and music industries have been severely impacted by the current pandemic, yet they continue to inspire and remind us of the beauty around us and our responsibility to lead with empathy, resilience and grace. While I certainly missed the experience of visiting Vienna, the virtual collaboration that occurred during the conference across multiple industries, private and public sectors, and between generations was a testament to the Forum’s purpose of connecting ideas, people and experiences.

Transformation: both challenge and privilege

We have experienced different forms of leadership in 2020. In times of transformation, connecting ideas in pursuit of better management practices and using management thinking to improve society is vital. Participants in this year’s Global Drucker Forum took a critical look at leading and leadership. The focus of most leading organisations is on developing skills and know-how to address different scenarios in preparation for moments of transformation in which we find ourselves. Memorising the latest management theory is useless if it is not combined with the skills and empathy needed to adapt to uncertain circumstances. 2020 is no exception.

While it has been a year of challenges, I believe it is a privilege to live through transformation; to be given the opportunity to participate in how society rearranges itself over the course of the years, to experience our grandparents’ reality along with our children’s triumphs and challenges. It is also a gift to be able to experiment, tinker, play, design, prototype to find new and better ways of doing things. It is during periods of tremendous change when we build resilience as organisations and as human beings.

Staying human

Transformation is a natural but sharp occurrence. I grew up on sailing ships; traditional wooden boats that had very few comforts beyond a bunk, a well-stocked galley kitchen, and solidly built hull and rigging. Living simply helps us to see something right in front of all of us: humanity. I think that with a human focus and finding those things that connect us all – the shining Southern Cross constellation, dolphins playing at the bow, lava rolling into a frothy sea off the Hawaiian Islands or voices joined in chorus to accompany raising sails – we are more prepared to see how we can keep a certain level of continuity, stay relevant and move towards bettering our organisational practices even in a completely transformed (and transforming) society.

Physical, virtual and symbolic spaces can provide us with the opportunity to create, connect and learn. The Forum represents that space to explore and with “leadership everywhere” we may need to ask ourselves, as Drucker did to many of his visitors, “what are you going to do on Monday that is different?” How are we learning and leading through transformation and developing the resilience we need to truly address the jobs to be done and the jobs of tomorrow?

About the author:
Esther Clark is a contributor to Forbes Mexico, America Economia, World Economic Forum and the Global Drucker Forum and currently works as director of marketing at Wey Education Plc. She was a Drucker Global Challenge winner in 2015

This article is one in the “shape the debate” series relating to the fully digital 12th Global Peter Drucker Forum, under the theme “Leadership Everywhere” on October 28, 29 & 30, 2020.

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