The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker


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The measure of an executive is the ability to get the right things done. In order to be an effective leader, you must first develop the habits that help you work effectively in your daily life.


16 lessons

The Effective Executive

– by Peter Drucker –


1) Effectiveness can be learned

To be effective does not require special gifts, special aptitude, or special training. Every effective leader had to learn to be effective. Each of them had to practice effectiveness until it became habit. Effective executives differ widely in their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs. All they have in common is that they get the right things done.

2) You have to manage yourself

Executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates. Management is largely by example. Executives who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job and work set the wrong example.

3) Manage your time

Effective executives know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under their control. Time is our most precious resource. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.

4) Focus on results

Effective executives focus on outward contribution. They gear their efforts to results rather than to work. The focus on contribution turns the executive’s attention away from his own specialty, his own narrow skills, his own department, and toward the performance of the whole. It turns his attention to the outside, the only place where there are results.

5) Build on strengths

Effective executives build on strengths – their own strengths, the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates. They do not build on weakness. They do not start out with the things they cannot do.

6) Ask what needs to be done

Asking what has to be done, and taking the question seriously, is crucial for managerial success. Failure to ask this question will render even the ablest executive ineffectual. After asking what needs to be done, the effective executive sets priorities and sticks to them.

7) Write an action plan

Executives are doers; they execute. Knowledge is useless to executives until it has been translated into deeds. But before springing into action, the executive needs to plan their course. They need to think about desired results, probable restraints, future revisions, check-in points, and implications for how they’ll spend their time.

8) Put first things first

If there is any one secret of effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time. The more one can concentrate time, effort, and resources, the greater the number and diversity of tasks one can actually perform.

9) Delegate to compensate for your weakness

Allocating the best people to the right positions is a crucial, tough job that many executives slight, in part because the best people are already too busy. In the areas where executives have weaknesses, they should delegate. Everyone has such areas; there’s no such thing as a universal executive genius.

10) Make jobs challenging for others

When staffing your company for strength, you must make each job demanding and big. It should have challenge to bring out whatever strength one may have. The worker whose job is too small to challenge and test their abilities either leaves or becomes cynical and unproductive.

11) Take responsibility for communicating

Effective executives make sure that both their action plans and their information needs are understood. Specifically, this means that they share their plans with and ask for comments from all their colleagues – superiors, subordinates, and peers. At the same time, they let each person know what information they’ll need to get the job done.

12) Focus on opportunities

Good executives focus on opportunities rather than problems. Problems have to be taken care of, of course; they must not be swept under the rug. But problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produces results. Above all, effective executives treat change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

13) Make meetings productive

Making a meeting productive takes a good deal of self-discipline. It requires that executives determine what kind of meeting is appropriate and then stick to that format. It’s also necessary to terminate the meeting as soon as its specific purpose has been accomplished. Good executives don’t raise another matter for discussion. They sum up and adjourn.

14) Think and say ‘We’

Effective executives know that they have ultimate responsibility, which can be neither shared nor delegated. But they have authority only because they have the trust of the organization. This means that they think of the needs and the opportunities of the organization before they think of their own needs and opportunities.

15) Demand more of yourself

People grow according to the demands they make on themselves. They grow according to what they consider to be achievement and attainment. If they demand little of themselves, they will remain stunted. If they demand a good deal of themselves, they will grow to giant stature.

16) Be open to disagreement

No matter how high their emotions run, no matter how certain they are that the other side is completely wrong and has no case at all, the executive who wants to make the right decision forces themselves to see opposition as their means to think through the alternatives. They use conflict of opinion as their tool to make sure all major aspects of an important matter are looked at carefully.