Here is a list of some of the most influential thought leaders in management and leadership. I like to make reference lists like this so I can keep track of the constellation of important people and ideas. I hope you find it helpful too. If you have any I should add, please comment. Thanks!
Peter Drucker essentially invented management studies. He was the dominant thought leader on management for over 50 years. As a Business philosopher and consultant.
One of his major concepts was MbO: Manage by Objectives. He was a proponent of measurements of performance and his most famous quote is “What gets measured gets managed”
That idea has been very compelling to me. Anything that you measure you tend to focus on and optimize. Think about getting a scale and weighing yourself every morning. This is the best way to control your weight.
Metrics and KPIs, key performance indicators, are now widely used to measure and control performance. These essentially began with Peter Drucker. He is the man.
Warren Bennis (March 8, 1925 — July 31, 2014) American scholar, organizational consultant and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies. Bennis was Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California.
“His work at MIT in the 1960s on group behavior foreshadowed — and helped bring about — today’s headlong plunge into less hierarchical, more democratic and adaptive institutions, private and public,” management expert Tom Peters wrote in 1993 in the foreword to Bennis’ An Invented Life: Reflections on Leadership and Change. Bennis is to leadership studies what Drucker is to management.
Edward de Bono (born 19 May 1933) is a physician, psychologist, philosopher, author, inventor and consultant. He is from the Mediterranean island of Malta. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote the book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the teaching of creativity as a subject in schools.
Lateral thinking is the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach. This is done through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light. Dr. de Bono compares the process of lateral thinking with humor, citing the flip from a familiar pattern to a new, unexpected one. Its the moment of surprise that generates laughter or a sudden insight or discovery. This is like Martin Gardner’s Aha Moment.
Perspective shifts will unlock more than smartness will.
– Astro Teller
Lateral Thinking is an ability to see a different thought pattern that initially was not obvious. Check out this short Tim Ferris podcast where Astro Teller talks about changing the context. He uses a cool chessboard problem to illustrate it.
Theodore Levitt was an American economist and professor at Harvard Business School. He was also editor of the Harvard Business Review and an editor who was especially noted for increasing the Review’s circulation and for popularizing the term globalization. In 1983, he proposed a definition for corporate purpose: Rather than merely making money, it is to create and keep a customer.
People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.
- Ted Levitt
James MacGregor Burns is best known for his contributions to leadership theory. There is a lot of discussion these days about Transactional Leadership and the style of President Trump. Transactional Leadership is a concept developed by Burns along with the transformational, aspirational, and visionary schools of leadership theory.
Dr. Burns was interested in the interaction of leaders with their constituencies and how leaders motivated people towards mutually beneficial goals. His work on transformational leadership is very inspirational and pertinent especially in this age of flatter organizations where common purpose and vision are the guiding principles of leadership.
Adolf Berle Jr. was a lawyer, educator, author, and U.S. diplomat. He was the author of The Modern Corporation and Private Property, a groundbreaking work on corporate governance, and an important member of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Brain Trust”.
Kenichi Ohmae is a Japanese organizational theorist, management consultant, Former Professor and Dean of UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and author, known for developing the 3C’s Model
Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.
- Kenichi Ohmae
Don Tapscott is a Canadian business executive, author, consultant and speaker, who specializes in business strategy, organizational transformation and the role of technology in business and society.