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Tom Drucker’s Leadership Journey

The purpose of my work is to bring meaning and purpose to leaders and their teams, so their associates and organizations flourish. I am also passionate about removing fear from all workplaces.

Meaning and purpose animates the lives of people. I learned this in my early 20’s when I was fortunate enough to study in Vienna with Dr. Viktor Frankl. He wrote the book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He survived 4 Nazi concentration camps while his entire family perished. He learned that he could not control his circumstances, but he could control his reaction to his circumstances. What he taught me then I continue to pass onto leaders today and practice myself.

My work is about transforming the way leaders think, learn and interact. They learn to shift from a reactive mindset to a proactive and creative mindset. Resilience, agility and collaboration are critical behavioral competencies. My colleagues and I coach leaders to learn and then teach these skills throughout their organizations. These learned behaviors improve their culture which then allows their organization to offer their Unique Value Proposition to their customers and effectively face the global competitive challenges in their marketplace.

My colleagues and I provide leaders and the organizations we work with, programs and coaching tailored to their requirements. These services improve performance and business results plus create sustainable changes to the culture of their organizations. I use solid science based on the latest research in Leadership, Management and Neuroscience. I am partnered with some of the most gifted practitioners working in the field of Leadership Development and Organizational Change. I was blessed to have studied and been mentored by founders of Behavioral Science and Positive Psychology such as Drs. Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Warren Bennis and Dr. Viktor Frankl.

I went to graduate school in both Clinical Psychology and Business at UCLA. Fifteen years ago, I began the study of brain science and continue to integrate ongoing research in Behavioral Neuroscience into my work.

Several years ago, I became a Strategic Partner with The Trium Group (www.triumgroup.com) as well as continuing to lead a firm I founded, Consultants in Corporate Innovation.

The results of my work with individual leaders, teams, public companies, family firms, closely held businesses and organizations of every size and type of industry produce lasting change. I guide, coach and support leaders and their teams to understand where their organizations are now and where they want to go. Together, we describe the gaps that need to be closed in order to achieve and sustain their vision and produce the tangible and measurable results they want.

As a thank-you for my helping Dr. Frankl type letters, securing engagements in English-speaking countries where he generated most of his income, he wrote letters of introduction to Drs. Maslow, Rogers, Fritz, Perls, Eric Berne, William Schutz and others.

Returning to the United States, I took a leave of absence from UCLA. First, I secured a 3-month internship at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA., where I studied Gestalt Psychology with Fritz Pearls, large group encounter work, and energy training. I incorporated all of this training into my work with individuals and later organizations.

I used the other letters of introduction Dr. Frankl had written to make appointments and take workshops in Transactional Analysis, Client-Centered Therapy, and most importantly, to form a meaningful mentorship with Dr. Abraham Maslow. I came back to UCLA and finished up my bachelor’s degree during which I was a teaching assistant for a psychology professor. With his encouragement to accelerate finishing my bachelors’ and entering the PhD. Program in Clinical Psychology, I did a community service project for credit. I interviewed key stakeholders in 5 communities in the So. Bay area of SoCal. I then led a series of 12 “experiential lecture/discussions” for parents and their teenage children on issues such as anxiety over drug use, teenage pregnancy, etc. The lecture series was sponsored by a local Presbyterian Church. They widely publicized the lecture series and it was extremely successful. I received my bachelors’ degree and immediately entered the PhD. Program in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Positive Psychology. I thought I knew where my career was headed. I could not have been more wrong. Dr. Maslow had very different ideas about what I should do. He thought I was wasting my time in what he called “the shrink school”. He was adamant I should enroll in the PhD. Program at the Business School at UCLA. They did have some amazing professors and I enrolled in 2 classes.

A lucky break came during the time I was taking these 2 Business School classes when the Dean asked me to assist a computer company that Xerox acquired which was losing money. So far, the two new Ph.Ds. the Dean believed could help had been unceremoniously tossed out. One faction at the company were the computer geniuses, whom someone labelled, “long-haired, widely overpaid, computer coders nobody understood”. The other faction were copier executives who had been sent to El Segundo from Rochester, N.Y. to manage people who invented a technology they clearly knew little about.

The Dean and I had never met. He had observed some of his most famous faculty on a live public television show supporting a very young grad student (me) defending a drug abuse prevention program I had started as a class project as an undergraduate. I was defending my Not-For-Profit Program along with Board members (parents of teens) from a group of far-right conservatives in front of the Torrance City Council. We had to move from the church after 5 weeks to a larger facility due to our success. Even though the program was helping troubled teens, the far-right agitators had obtained tape recordings of what the teenagers had said in small group discussions which were supposed to be confidential. They played these recordings to the Torrance City Council. It made for great television. The TV program was what prompted the Dean to call me to his office and say, “you seem to be able handle yourself very well with angry adults. I have an assignment for you with angry business leaders. If they don’t throw you out after your first meeting with them, they will pay you well because their company is losing money and they need help.” I said, “sign me up!” I had just received my MA in Clinical Psychology and the dean was impressed that my mentor, Abe Maslow, was urging me to transfer to his PhD program. I was already seeing patients under supervision to get my Californialicense. So, I knew that the first thing to do with any client, whether it be a person, family, or organization, was to listen. when I introduced myself to the group of executives, I just asked their permission to hang out and get to know them.

Then, for two months, I earned their trust by listening to them as I went from their offices to their meeting rooms and observe them in action. Then I invited them to listen to me. I was very gracious and told them I observed the root cause of their inability to make money. It was the lack trust between the two groups. Therefore, no genuine collaboration could occur. No common goals were honestly agreed upon. The “two sides” were competing to prove to the Xerox Chairman, Peter McCullough, based in Connecticut, that each group (not “the other”) should be given complete charge over the company. Continuing in my most respectful they saw they were in a winlose mindset which was not going to get them to a place to make a profit.

I suggested what would work was to learn how to trust and collaborate as one team. They agreed to let me help them learn together to work together. Three months later, their balance sheet began to show a bit of black ink. In 5 months, Peter McCullough, the Chairman, asked to meet me. He had invested over a billion dollars on this acquisition, and he was pleasantly surprised at what he called a “quick turnaround.” Over time, we 7 became friendly. Eventually he offered me a job and hired me directly out of Business School. Under his leadership, I built up a global division of 600 Behavioral Scientists plus a support staff. Our mission was to help Xerox leaders around the world to create strategies and Leadership Development Programs so leaders and their teams would train Xerox teammates to bring all 220,000 Xerox Associates into the digital age. Colleagues called me, “The Accidental Futurist.” This was because I was trained as a Behavioral Scientist and knew very little about technology. Peter gave me an office at their Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). I had a prototype personal computer in the mid 70’s. Along the way, my corporate organization helped Xerox with several other exciting projects: helping build a corporate university campus by Dulles Airport, continuing a Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Program which continues to set standards today, helping Xerox win The Baldridge Quality Award and administering the Global Employee Engagement Survey Process. After fifteen years of this remarkable experience, I decided it was time to trigger an exit clause I had negotiated when Peter offered me the job. Over the following year, I helped Xerox with a few projects, moved back to beach in Marina Del Rey where I had previously lived and started a consulting firm which I still operate today. Fifteen years ago, I began the study of neuroscience. It turns out the theories I learned from my famous mentors are now sound science. Now, every part of all programs that I and my colleagues design and deliver are based on research and are fact-based.

The Trium Group is a highly respected partnership of senior level Organizational Change and Leadership Development Professionals based in San Francisco. They approached me based on some work I had done at Google. We have all practiced Psychotherapy, have applied Neuroscience in our work, and have been successful Senior Executives. I am proud to be part of teams who work inside rapidly growing technology companies. Take a look at a video from the CFO at Dropbox who describes an engagement in some detail. Also, explore their website to see the remarkable work we are all so proud of doing.

Today, I continue to integrate my priceless experience as a Xerox Global Leader, a Positive Psychologist and a Neuroscientist into every client engagement. Someone recently asked me what choices did I make in my life that guided my career? After some thought, I realized my primary choice was the early decision I made to go to Vienna, Austria to study with Dr. Viktor Frankl. Every other opportunity flowed from that. I just said YES to what “showed up in front of me”. If you’ve seen the show or heard the score from Wicked, the last song For Good has the lyric Because I’ve known you/I have been changed for good. I live that lyric every day. I was changed for good when I studied with Dr. Frankl. I was changed for good again when Dr. Maslow became my major mentor and urged me to enroll in the Anderson School of Business with their world famous faculty of Behavioral Scientists.

As my work and my career continues today the purpose of my work and my life remains consistent. As Dr. Frankl taught me, when a person has meaning and purpose in their life, they can face the circumstances they encounter with remarkable courage. That can lead people around them to find the courage they need to accomplish what they did not believe was possible. An often-quoted line from Man’s Search for Meaning sums up this point powerfully: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Once I began the study of Behavioral Neuroscience, I became passionate about removing fear from the workplace. Fear is a creativity killer. My commitment to my own mindfulness, intentionality, well-being and gratitude grounds me daily. I urge colleagues and friends to support me in these commitments just as I support them. No one can go through life alone nor should we want to.

I feel blessed to be married for 38 years to Marcia SeligsonDrucker, who is a well-regarded theatrical producer. When I met her, she was a bestselling author and well-known journalist. We are both committed activists. There is a climate crisis facing our planet today. We are both active in (www.earthscall.org). I urge all to check out this website. It’s all about action. Because our planet is in crisis and your help is needed. I’m asking everyone everywhere to get involved and do something to make a difference!

My Leadership Journey is still unfolding. Like many leaders, one of my greatest pleasures comes from mentoring other leaders to reach their fullest potential. Research has validated what is obviously true. Ask any leader what they value most about their job: they will always answer “the satisfaction I get from seeing others grow.” Abe Maslow said, “it is in our DNA to keep learning and to be in service to others.” I live that every day

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