The Effective Executive - Peter F. Drucker

The Effective Executive - Peter F. Drucker

Learn the importance of efficiency for a company and learn the five habits necessary to be a more productive manager!

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Known as the "father of modern management", Peter Drucker is responsible for making quality predictions of such striking trends as decentralization, privatization, and the development of the information society. In "The Effective Executive" he brings valuable tips to transform you into a productive and different leader.

Therefore, this book is considered essential for any executive, from the most novice to those who are already considered to be clearly efficient. In this summary, we've separated all the main ideas of the book, in order to help your comprehension and assimilation.

Got interested to become a better manager? Stay with us in this summary and leverage your results!

About the book "The Effective Executive"

In the book "The Effective Executive" (1966), the author explains the details of what managers should do and how they can conceptualize their work, as well as giving tips on how to have a productive perception of what you do.

The author also talks about which are the five habits of efficiency in management. Everything is covered in this summary!

About the author Peter F. Drucker

As an author and intellectual, Peter F. Drucker was a true master of business as well as a business consultant and teacher. In addition, his ideas have a huge impact on the formation of modern companies.

His thirty-nine books and numerous articles discuss how humans organize themselves in businesses, governments, and non-profit institutions.

To whom is this book indicated?

No one writes in a smarter or more patient way about management and its functions than Drucker. In this book, he teaches the reader how to think productively about what you do.

It is, therefore, recommended to all executives. Even those that are already considered effective can take advantage of reading, which becomes very informative and enlightening.

Definitely a must-reading for future managers and entrepreneurs!

Main ideas of the book "The Effective Executive"

  • The position of an executive conspires against its effectiveness;
  • You can teach yourself how to be an effective executive;
  • Effective executives prioritize, plan, take responsibility, communicate, look for opportunities, and contribute to their businesses;
  • Society depends on efficient organizations, which in turn rely on efficient leaders.

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[Book Summary] The Effective Executive - Peter F. Drucker

Overview: You can teach yourself how to be effective

You can't manage others if you can't manage yourself. For the executive - the ultimate "knowledge worker" - this means managing your own effectiveness, which is not such a difficult task.

It involves adopting some specific practices and five crucial habits. To be more productive, Peter Drucker says to adopt these eight practices:

  1. Focus on what you need: often this may be different from what you want to do at the moment. Accept only one or two tasks at a time, the others you can delegate;
  2. Make sure your actions will bring benefits to the company: are you doing the best for your organization? The company is what matters most, not the owners, the market value, the employees, or the executives;
  3. Create a plan of action: knowledge, wisdom, and expertise are useless without action. On the other hand, action without a plan is against productive. Your set of actions represents your intentions, not your commitments. Be ready to change if circumstances demand and check your plan often to make sure it is working;
  4. Take responsibility for your actions: make sure your employees know the plan of action and all its particularities, including deadlines. Determine who will do what, who this affects and who should be informed and updated about the plan;
  5. Communicate your plan: this includes subordinates and superiors;
  6. Look for opportunities: see the changes as something to be explored, not as a threat. Never allow problems to hinder opportunities;
  7. Conduct productive meetings: meetings can be very useful or time-consuming. There is no middle ground. Having productive meetings requires discipline. So, finish as soon as you meet your goals;
  8. Orient your thinking to "we", not to "you": what is important to you is not really relevant. What matters most is what is valuable to your organization.

Executives can be brilliant, imaginative, and informed, but inefficient. Effective executives are systematic. They work hard in the right areas and their results define them. They are knowledgeable professionals who help the company to beat its goals.

The best leaders see beyond mere administrative tasks and try to pursue important trends that can affect their organizations. Unfortunately, positions of authority actually conspire against their professional effectiveness.

Time Restrictions

An executive's time belongs to everyone in the organization. In addition, when people inside or outside the company need to interact with someone, they feel free to interrupt. This constant concentration break decreases productivity.

Organizational sectors

Most organizations have separate sectors, in which individual specialists focus on specific pursuits - accounting, legal, research and development, and data management.

Each group has separate goals and agendas, but its executives often need to combine their efforts. Unfortunately, many of them have no control over specialists in other areas and may not get support when needed.


Leaders work deeply within their organizations. As a consequence, they don't come into close contact with outside parties, including consumers, market analysts, and suppliers.

But these links are important because the organization does not survive without favorable external outcomes, such as increased sales, good public relations, and strong distribution support. Moreover, for any company, external reality controls almost everything of value.

Unfortunately, as companies move forward, many executives lose touch with this crucial external context. Effectiveness tends to fall while focusing more on computer-generated data on operations than on the reality of the market.

Overview: First Time - Know Your Time

To manage your time well, Peter Drucker gives these three steps:

1. Timing

If you don't take care of your time, you may not know how to invest it. So, write down how long each task takes. Then, use this record as a guide to delegating certain tasks and activities.

Add these items to the reports your subordinates give you, but always ask if it is not a waste of time. If so, make some changes. The more effective your team is, the more effective you become.

2. Managing Time

Do you have a good system ready to protect your time? If you routinely experience any crisis in relation to it, as a "rush" to conduct an annual inventory, then you need one.

Plan better recurring events to save time. Sometimes having lots of people involved can be a waste of time as employees interact among themselves instead of doing the activities. Decrease as few meetings as possible by speaking only as necessary.

3. Consolidating Time

If you are a senior executive, you probably only have control over 25% of your time, maybe less. So, determine how much free time you have, so you can use it well, and then consolidate the information.

Set aside this time period to be productive. Don't let anything interfere - which requires high discipline. Keep in mind that you don't achieve sustainable results in a short time.

Overview: Second Habit - How Can I Contribute?

Do you care more about your team's daily activities than about the results they present? An effective sales manager is not someone who runs the sales department, but someone who makes the company sell more products.

An effective accountant not only balances the company's records but also provides the financial information the company needs to ensure that the operation is profitable.

You should focus less on your individual effort and more on the real contributions you can make to the company. Don't set them shallow, but include direct results, such as increased sales or reduced costs, and activities that develop the organization, such as training.

Peter Drucker advises asking other contributors: "What contribution can I make that will allow you to be more productive?" And then strive to deliver.

Overview: The third Habit - Making your strengths productive

Force is an asset. This is true of your strengths (your skills, your expertise, your knowledge, and your personality) and those of your co-workers. The effective executive always builds everything by taking advantage of these strengths, including assembling their teams.

During the American Civil War, some advisers warned American President Abraham Lincoln about the highly effective General Ulysses R. Grant being a drunk. He replied: "I need to find out what brand he likes, so I'm going to send some barrels to the other generals."

The president's characteristic has always been to focus on results, not weaknesses, like Confederate General Robert E. Lee. One of his commanders once ignored his orders and disrupted his battle plan. When asked why he would not remove him from the post, he replied: "He performs well".

In business, as well as in wars, the result is what matters. Always keep this in mind when evaluating current or future employees.

Overview: Fourth habit - One thing at a time

Carrying out multiple tasks at one time may not work very well and can be a mistake. To do some activity, focus on one thing at a time, two at the most. Three is almost always unrealistic. Yet throughout history, there were geniuses who could handle many tasks at once.

Mozart was supposed to create several musical compositions at the same time. But most of us are not Mozart. You may even be able to accomplish your goals by multitasking, but your work will be substandard.

Instead of doing several things together, work smart and fast on one goal at a time. This is not to say that you should work in a hurry, but rather that you should concentrate and work constantly on the job ahead of you.

Involve your team in productive pursuits. If an activity is unproductive, drop it. Always prioritize and watch your purposes. Keep your eyes open for the future, not focused on the past. Remember to keep a working time margin for any unexpected issues that may arise.

Overview: Fifth habit - Decision making

Most situations that require decision making are basically generic, that is, typical and not exceptional. You can handle such circumstances by applying well-established rules with general principles and procedures.

The challenge is to determine when a situation is, in fact, typical or when it is different in some way that needs a specific approach. The biggest mistake in making decisions is trying to deal with an unusual problem in a typical way.

For example, production problems happen continuously, so you can deal with them using decisions and actions that worked well beforehand.

On the other hand, a major power outage (such as occurred in northeastern North America in 1965) is a huge atypical event. In order to solve, it is necessary to make special decisions and not apply rules that have already worked in other situations.

Being able to differentiate generic situations from extraordinary events is a fundamental part of making decision-making effective.

Overview: The principle of relevance

Peter Drucker explains that the value of the decisions you make depends on their relevance. This is a correct measure of the validity of your subjective judgment about any circumstance with which you have to deal as an executive.

The clarity and relevance of their opinion matters, for the real facts of most situations, are rarely discernible quickly: they usually manifest themselves after some time.

Always operate considering that "traditional measure is not the right measure". Look for other options. You can, for example, measure the value of an investment or a capital expenditure according to the time it will take to recover that expense.

You can determine the future profitability of an investment or the current value of the expected returns. Each of these measures represents only a partial picture of the probable value of the expense, so insist that your accountants provide all the calculations.

The combination of data that emerges from these different methods of measuring relevance will enable you to make the decision by being better informed.

Overview: It all depends on you

As an executive and knowledge professional, you represent a highly valuable resource - indispensable, indeed. Society depends on you and millions of knowledgeable professionals like you are the most efficient possible.

If you are effective, your organization can be productive and bring important contributions to the general good. Intentionally, efficient companies can serve as "useful tools" to improve people's lives. This is a noble purpose.

However, society cannot achieve this vital goal if organizations are not efficient. To avoid this problem, they need solid professional knowledge.

In addition, you are an integral element of the system that moves society forward. Fortunately, any executive can learn to be an increasingly efficient professional: it's a matter of habit.

What do other authors say about it?

John C. Maxwell, author of the book "Leadership Gold", explains that the best leaders are those who know to listen. Good listeners know what is happening because they are watchful. They learn more than others because they absorb from many places.

In the recommended "The Leadership Pipeline", the author Ram Charam shows what are the 7 leadership phases and the 6 transitions that a leader must pass through to reach a high management level.

Finally, Brené Brown, in the book "Dare to Lead", says that a leader must assume their responsibilities and recognize the people's potential and ideas to encourage them to develop their potential. True leaders know that the real power is the one shared with others.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

What makes an Effective Executive?

In order to apply these concepts in your life, according to the author, you must develop the ability to "do the right things". This often involves doing what other people neglect as well as avoiding what is unproductive.

With the right mindset, you turn your intelligence, imagination, and knowledge into results. To do this, Peter Drucker proposes the practices we have seen above.

It is worth remembering that all of them can be learned and this the set that will make you a more effective manager.

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Book 'The Effective Executive'