The Thinkers Top 50

Sep 29 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The most influential management guru in the world is Peter Drucker according Suntop Mediaís latest 'Thinkers 50' ranking of business thinkers.

Fending off the seemingly unstoppable ascent of Harvardís competitiveness king Michael Porter, Drucker, despite being in his nineties, retains the No. 1 slot he earned in 2001. With Drucker still showing his younger rivals a clean set of heels, the real drama of the 2003 ranking is among the runners-up.

But Michael Porter closes the gap, moving from No. 3 to claim the No. 2 spot. Among other things, the greatest strategic mind of our times has invested his brain power in improving the UKís productivity.

Despite a strong media presence, the genteel voice of management, Charles Handy slips back from 2nd to 5th place. The hyper-active Tom Peters, whose star appeared to be waning, moves up from the No. 5 slot to No.3. Peters seems to have been bolstered by last yearís 20th anniversary of his ground-breaking first book In Search of Excellence.

Top 10 gainers are Philip Kotler, Northwestern Universityís doyen of marketing, who moves up four places from 10th to 6th. Also scaling the heights is Jim Collins. The author of the best-selling Good to Great, (and co-author of Built to Last) climbs from a good 20th to a greatly improved 10th.

The highest newcomer to the 2003 ranking is the emotional intelligence champion Daniel Goleman, who makes an impressive debut at 29th. Goleman is closely followed by a string of other new arrivals. Author of the bestselling No Logo, Naomi Klein, in 30th place, puts her own mark on the Thinkers 50.

Comic-strip lovers will be pleased to know that Dilbert-creator Scott Adams remains as influential as ever coming in at 27th.

But the guru industry is dominated by WASPish men. Women are woefully under-represented. Only Harvard's Rosabeth Moss Kanter (9) and London Business School's HR champion Lynda Gratton (41) get a look in.

"This yearís Thinkers 50 demonstrates how fickle managers are. Fads, fashions and gurus appear to come and go with increasing speed," says Des Dearlove of Suntop Media.

"The reason behind this is simple: managers know that a great idea, a different way of doing things, can provide a crucial competitive advantage in an increasingly cut-throat world. In business ideas matter more than ever."

Peter Ferdinand Drucker is often described as the father of modern management thinking. His canon of work has no equal in its breadth or accessibility. There can be hardly a business topic to which Drucker has not turned his gimlet curiosity; no subject upon which he has not had something insightful to say.

Born in Austria but long resident in the US, Drucker combines Old World humanism and a prodigious sense of history with the optimism of the Americas. The source and inspiration for much of today's management theory, many of Drucker's observations are as relevant today as when he first set pen to paper. As far back as the 1960s, for example, he was predicting the rise of the knowledge worker. Some 40 years on the words still resonate.

Full details of the top 50 can be found at