The Effective Executive

The Effective Executive


Written by renowned management consultant the late

, this book is from the 60s, when digital was barely a thing, let alone smartphones and the internet.

Jobs mostly involved manual or physical labor. Despite that, this book offers some key people and personal management tips that hold up to this day.


Anyone who makes decisions that can impact the team or his/her own personal performance is an executive.

The book contends that effectiveness can be learned and honed.

Some ways to hone our effectiveness include:

  1. Knowing and managing your time.
  2. Leveraging positive human relations within the firm.
  3. Knowing your own and the team's strengths and leveraging those to drive results.
  4. Improving the process of decision-making.

Key ideas

The book stresses that efficiency is not an inborn skill, and it can and should, be honed with practice.

An executive is not just someone who manages a lot of people.

Any knowledge worker whose regular decisions impact the working of a project or a group is an executive.

Effective executives (EEs) are:

  1. Mindful of their time.
  2. Focus on results than effort.
  3. Capitalize on strengths of their own and the team.
  4. Prioritize doing the things with the maximum impact.
  5. Dropping/letting go of the low-priority tasks.
  6. Make effective decisions.

EEs schedule their time before fixating on tasks.

They record how they spend their time, allowing them to cut back on unproductive tasks.

They manage time by scheduling tasks based on priority and consolidating time to maximize effectiveness, such as leveraging Biological Prime Time for high-value tasks.

The book suggests that low worth activities arise from :

  1. Overstaffing : Too many people who are needed only sparingly
  2. Mal-organization: Multiple people having to be involved for expertise/approvals.
  3. Lack of Information: Executives don't have a lot of time available for important tasks and, therefore, need to gain information beforehand to avoid lagging behind the system.

EEs ask 'What can I contribute to improve the results?' and focus on making it happen instead of focusing on efforts.

Effective meetings always have a purpose spelled out beforehand, and the conclusion of the meeting correlates to the purpose.

EEs, capitalize on the combined strengths of their teams. They do not try to dissuade weakness and prefer merit over favoritism.

They focus on people's strengths and make do with weaknesses.

The book stresses that you can do only one thing at a time, and thus, EEs focus on the tasks that carry the maximum importance.

They regularly eliminate tasks that aren't meaningful anymore.

EEs also make decisions, especially those requiring high conceptual understanding.

Elements of the decision process

  1. Is this a generic decision or an exception?
  2. What are the boundary conditions that this decision must meet?
  3. What is the most stringent requirement that this decision could meet?
  4. How will you make the decision actionable?
  5. Feedback loop - did the decision turn out to be a good one?

Decisions should only be taken when there are conflicting views. EEs, decide between two similar arguments that stress the same point.

Opinions always come before facts, and people search for facts to back up an opinion, and EEs encourage this behavior.

EEs emphasize having disagreements within the organization to safeguard against everyone being a "yes-man," provide alternative ideas and foster imagination.

One alternative in all decisions is to do nothing, and sometimes, that is an answer and thus, has to be evaluated by the executive.

Final thoughts

The book is a goldmine of excellent management advice regarding people and time. Even though the book is quite old, many of the ideas discussed still hold good.

If you are interested in improving both as a leader and an individual and looking to implement a framework to get that started, this book will come in handy.

Book Authors

Peter Drucker

Related Methodologies

The Ivy Lee Method
Time Blocking
Biological Prime Time

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