For many who work with strategic knowledge, the upcoming Drucker Centenary carries with it something akin to confirmation or affirmation. Considering Mr. Drucker’s contributions, the observances focused around 19 November acknowledge that we are ready to move to a knowledge society. For many of us, we can’t help but be grateful that – as a society – we’re getting beyond the affectation of ignorance that seemed to characterize such a large chunk of our recent past.
Such are the thoughts that come to mind after an evening with colleagues in The Drucker Society of New York, for meeting with us were Frances Hesselbein, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Leader to Leader Institute, and Bruce Rosenstein, author of Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life.
As might be expected from these two expert storytellers, the evening became one of shared experiences (not only from the two of them, but from audience members as well) and ideas flowed freely. Indeed, it would be extremely gratifying to capture all that was discussed but highlights must suffice. And providing highlights is not such a difficult task, since Lee Igel, the group’s leader, used the concept of “defining moments” – those times or events in our lives that guided us to our association with Peter Drucker – to help us focus our thoughts.
Mrs. Hesselbein went back to her childhood to describe her defining moment, telling about how she had determined from her grandmother’s good influence that there is no place in our society (or in the workplace) for prejudice and exclusion. Rosenstein chose as his experience the time when, as he worked toward his book about Drucker’s influence, Drucker used the phrase “living in more than one world,” providing Rosenstein the concept he knew he wanted to convey.
We all have these moments. For some, the defining moment comes when – in a secure profession or field of work, perhaps – there’s a desire to do more, to put one’s self on the line and seek work in which one either supports organizational effectiveness or finds one’s self on the street looking for a job! And, yes, I’m speaking personally here, for as a young librarian my defining moment came when I decided that I wanted to be accountable for my work. The positions in which I had been employed up to that time were not asking enough of me, and I wanted very much to be judged for my professional performance. At about the same time, something led me to specialized librarianship, where my work would either be part of organizational success or I wouldn’t have a job. It was that simple, my defining moment, and it led me down paths I never even knew existed. And, as can be inferred, to a focus on the role of management, individual competencies, and, yes, the influence of a philosophy like Peter Drucker’s, as we seek to achieve organizational effectiveness.
So what we are experiencing – as we think about what Drucker was leading us to – turns out to be something of an affirmation after all, doesn’t it? For those of us looking to understand the place of strategic knowledge in our lives – and our professional roles in developing, managing, and sharing strategic knowledge – it is something of a pleasure to be so affirmed and to learn to recognize those defining moments that lead us onward and upward.
And another professional experience with Frances greatly pleased me. In 2016, my course on “Managing Information and Knowledge: Applied Knowledge Services” (which I teach at Columbia University) was stimulating much enthusiasm with my graduate students. When I told her about their enthusiasm, Frances invited the students to join her for a conference about how leadership and knowledge services interact. It was a very successful event, and even now former students (some of whom are probably reading this) remark about how influential the conference was as they moved into their careers.
And since I very carefully refer to this online journal as my “personal” blog (despite the fact that some professional commentary gets through from time to time, as above), I want to describe two other experiences having to do with Frances and me. These are – no question – truly personal. One was for her birthday last year, when she and I went to her favorite restaurant here in New York, Le Colonial. When the meal was finished and the maître d’ suggested taking our photograph, Frances propped the photo of my new great-grandson and the birthday card Andrew Berner had specially designed for her against our Prosecco bottle and a glass, so they would be in the photograph. That, to me, was a gracious gesture typical of Frances (and one which, in fact, I didn’t notice until I saw the photograph).
The second personal story is similar: when I had a big birthday last summer (I’m 25 years younger than Frances), the epidemic prevented any sort of celebration, so friends decided to prepare a “memory book” for me. Frances sent along a favorite photo from one of my visits to her at her office, with the following note: “Happy happy birthday! How I miss our lunches in my NYC office and the delicious, divine, chocolates you would gift me each and every time. Sending you my love and my warmest hug my dear friend.” So, yes, that is getting pretty personal, and I don’t think anyone reading this will mind.
As it turns out, there is a special opportunity to honor Frances Hesselbein’s career and legacy. At the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the mission is to develop and inspire current and future leaders. A fundraising campaign to celebrate significant milestones of the Hesselbein Forum and of Frances herself has been established. The campaign – designed to honor the living legacy of Frances Hesselbein – is described at https://engage.pitt.edu/project/23426 and contributions are very welcome.