|Ira Jackson's job as dean of Claremont Graduate University's Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management isn't all that easy.
With the death of the legendary Drucker earlier this year, Jackson becomes the dean who will lead the school into the post-Drucker era.
A wide range of experience certainly would appear to leave him well-qualified. CGU President Robert Klitgaard says Jackson's "career is living Drucker," calling him "an accomplished entrepreneur of noble causes in universities, business, government and the social sector."
He has been commissioner of revenue for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, executive vice president of BankBoston, an adviser to Boston Mayor Kevin White, and chief executive officer and president of the Arizona State University Foundation, among other jobs.
Jackson sat down recently for Six Questions from Daily Bulletin business editor Michael Rappaport.
Q. Your background includes positions both in academia and in the private sector. How are the challenges different in academia?
A. I've been lucky enough to be a banker, a state commissioner of revenue, president of a couple of foundations and a teacher and academic administrator. So I'm comfortable in the classroom, the boardroom, the corner office and the community. I've had the privilege to get to know and hopefully to understand what makes leaders and organizations tick - whether it's a CEO or a governor, a United Way executive director, or a professor.
I've come to have enormous respect for the challenges that each faces - competition in business, competing claims for resources in the government, the need to engage volunteers in a well-managed nonprofit or the competing demands on faculty to pursue both research and teaching. I feel that as the new dean at the Drucker School of Management here at Claremont Graduate University, I've found the "sweet spot."
We're at the intersection of all those sectors where I've been active as a practitioner, so in a sense I feel like I've come home.
Business needs to be efficient. Government needs to be equitable. Nonprofits need to engender trust. Those are huge demands on managers and leaders. The task for us at the Drucker School is to train our students to face those challenges with competence as well as compassion, to view their role as both an art and a science and to be both value-creators and values-driven.
It's a huge task but a wonderful opportunity, and we know that society needs that kind of training and those kinds of leaders for all sectors now more than ever before.
Q. What effect have the teachings of Peter Drucker had on your own career?
A. Peter was the founder or the father of modern management. He's been described as the most important thinker about business and organizations of our times. He's had a profound impact on everyone in the field, including me.
He viewed organizations not as mechanical inventions or just as financial balance sheets but as essentially human enterprises, and he put people first. His insights about knowledge workers, his focus on employees as assets rather than expenses or liabilities, his ideas about the importance of the nonprofit sector, his emphasis on creativity and innovation, his early emphasis on sustainability and environmental stewardship - those and other powerful teachings have all helped to shape the entire field.
Peter was sometimes 50 years ahead, and he pointed the way to a future that others couldn't see but that almost everyone now acknowledges. He was a prophet and a servant, a visionary and a humble and talented teacher. His work continues to inspire me, and our school is dedicated to carry on his work, enliven it and continue to ensure its relevance in the future.
Q. What new ideas or new directions do you have for the Drucker School?
A. The Drucker School has an excellent and distinguished faculty, a strong student body, and successful alumni. Thirty-five years after its founding, it continues to innovate and make major intellectual contributions that are widely respected.
What we'd like to do now is to take the Drucker Schoolto the next level - to grow our size, scope and significance, so that we can have an even greater impact on society by reaching out to more students who seek our distinctive style and focus.
We want to grow and expand, but we want to maintain the intimacy and the personalized attention that each of our students receive. We have a different and perhaps unique role in management education.
We will continue to focus on leadership, strategy and ethics, along with skills development and areas such as finance, and we'll try to expand our reach while preserving our sense of community.
Q. Is modern business straying from the teachings of Peter Drucker?
A. It's almost as though business is finally catching up to Peter now that he's no longer with us. Business leaders have a newfound appreciation for the power of innovation and creativity as the engines of progress.
They are learning what Peter taught about organizations basically being human enterprises, and they are focusing on developing human capital. They are awakening to the need to grow sustainably and responsibly, just as Peter taught.
And many business leaders have come to understand and embrace the role that nonprofits play in society by beginning to form partnerships with them, just as Peter predicted and suggested. Peter Drucker is more relevant to business today than ever before.
Q. What do you see as the greatest challenges facing management in America?
A. In an increasingly competitive, globalized economy where the pace of change is only accelerating, business leaders need new skills and new talents. They need to be both effective and ethical, analytical and intuitive, value-creating and values-driven.
Enron, Katrina and today's other headlines remind us that many of our most important institutions have failed to meet Peter's test and society's demands.
Being a business leader anywhere in the world today, whether here in the Inland Empire or in Southeast Asia, whether as a start-up in L.A. or a big business in Mexico, is one tough and demanding job. It's no longer enough to just deliver profits or products, and that's tough enough.
Business leaders now must also understand and embrace a diverse work force and global competition, technology, human psychology, high public expectations, demanding shareholders and many new stakeholders as well. This is a new breed of business managers and leaders whose jobs are more complex than ever.
The Drucker School understands their world, and we do our best to prepare them to succeed with the new skills they need to compete and succeed and excel. Business is the engine that drives our economy and creates opportunity for our people. If business is well led, it creates jobs and wealth and leads to a more just society as well.
Peter once asked, "What do you want to be remembered for?" At the school named in his honor, we try to train leaders for business and society who leave their mark, both through professional success and a legacy of ethical behavior as well as a contribution to society. We want them to do well and to do good, by making a lasting difference to their organizations and society as a whole.
Q. As someone who worked in government, what do you see as the role of government with regard to business?
A. Business needs government to be more businesslike and efficient, to live better within its means and to be more responsible for institutional performance and fiscal accountability.
Business also needs government to provide an enabling framework for the private sector to thrive and grow according to predictable and reliable rules, from free and fair trade to effective regulations.
Moreover, business and government need to work together, along with so-called NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), to tackle some of the most intractable problems facing society, from port security to global warming and from poverty alleviation to opportunity creation ... problems too large and complex for government, business or nonprofits to tackle and solve on their own ... problems that extend well beyond our national borders.
Business needs to be more socially and environmentally responsible, and government needs to be more businesslike and even entrepreneurial, so we get the best from both and work together to advance the economy as well as social justice.