How Did Leader Become a Job Title? Part 2

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Leadership, Management

In the last episode, Peter Drucker had just read Kyropaidaia and declared it to be the best book ever written on leadership.  Within a few years Drucker writes his fifth book, The Practice of Management, (1954).  Within the book he writes about Xenophon, his books, and leadership principles (pages 2, 5, 117-118, 121–131)

Incite: I believe this was the beginning of the blurring of the lines between management and leadership.

In his thirteenth book, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, p. 325, (1973), Drucker writes “that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.”

Peter Drucker never wrote a book specifically dedicated to leadership, however, a wealth of information about leadership can be found dispersed throughout his 39 books and hundreds of articles.  In fact, there is so much information, in 2010, William A. Cohen wrote “Drucker on Leadership.”  Cohen explains that Drucker was ambivalent about leadership for much of his career, making it clear that leadership was not by itself “good or desirable.” While he struggled with the concept of leadership, he was aware that it had a critical impact on the accomplishment of all projects and human endeavors.

Incite: I believe that Drucker’s ambivalence and struggle with the concept of leadership was why he imbedded the principles within the overarching concept of management.

As new management and leadership “gurus” emerged on the scene, Peter Drucker shifted his attention to the social sector.  In 1990, the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management was founded and he was named the Honorary Chairman. In January 2003, the Drucker Foundation celebrated the great contribution of Peter Drucker and renamed the organization the Leader to Leader Institute! (Exclamation point added).

Okay, so how did leader become a job title? In summary, I believe Peter Drucker was primarily responsible for blurring the boundaries between the concepts of leader, manager, supervisor, etc. The result was that the terms started to be used somewhat synonymously. Somewhere around the late 90’s, early 2000’s, in an attempt to emphasize leadership responsibilities, and help people feel better about their jobs, organizations began adding leader to job titles.

Do a search on a popular job search site like and look for “leader” in job title only – my search came back with over 30,000 jobs. I realize many of those are duplicates, but still, that’s a lot of “leaders.”

Incite: Regardless of the synonymous use of leader and other manager type descriptors, there is a distinct difference between them – more about that later.


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