What Makes an Effective Executive

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ARTICLE
www.hbr.org

What Makes an
Effective Executive
by Peter F Drucker
.

Included with this full-text Harvard Business Review article: 1 Article Summar y
The Idea in Brief—the core idea
The Idea in Practice—putting the idea to work
2 What Makes an Effective Executive
8 Further Reading
A list of related materials, with annotations to guide further exploration of the article’s ideas and applications

Product 6980

What Makes an Effective Executive

The Idea in Brief

The Idea in Practice

Worried that you’re not a born leader? That
you lack charisma, the right talents, or some
other secret ingredient? No need: leadership isn’t about personality or talent. In fact, the best leaders exhibit wildly different personalities, attitudes, values, and strengths— they’re extroverted or reclusive, easygoing

or controlling, generous or parsimonious,
numbers or vision oriented.

GET THE KNOWLEDGE YOU NEED

So what do effective leaders have in common? They get the right things done, in the right ways—by following eight simple
rules:

Ask what needs to be done.
When Jack Welch asked this question while
taking over as CEO at General Electric, he realized that dropping GE businesses that couldn’t be first or second in their industries
was essential—not the overseas expansion he
had wanted to launch. Once you know what
must be done, identify tasks you’re best at,
concentrating on one at a time. After completing a task, reset priorities based on new realities.

• Develop action plans.

Ask what’s right for the enterprise.
Don’t agonize over what’s best for owners, investors, employees, or customers. Decisions that are right for your enterprise are ultimately
right for all stakeholders.

• Take responsibility for decisions.

CONVERT YOUR KNOWLEDGE INTO ACTION

• Take responsibility for communicating.

Develop action plans.
Devise plans that specify desired results and
constraints (is the course of action legal and
compatible with the company’s mission, values, and policies?). Include check-in points and implications for how you’ll spend your time. And
revise plans to reflect new opportunities.

• Ask what needs to be done.
• Ask what’s right for the enterprise.

• Focus on opportunities, not problems.

COPYRIGHT © 2004 HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

• Run productive meetings.
• Think and say “We,” not “I.”
Using discipline to apply these rules, you
gain the knowledge you need to make
smart decisions, convert that knowledge
into effective action, and ensure accountability throughout your organization.

gies, product innovations, new market structures), asking “How can we exploit this change to benefit our enterprise?” Then match your
best people with the best opportunities.
ENSURE COMPANYWIDE ACCOUNTABILITY
Run productive meetings.
Articulate each meeting’s purpose (Making an
announcement? Delivering a report?). Terminate the meeting once the purpose is accomplished. Follow up with short communications summarizing the discussion, spelling out new work assignments and deadlines for

completing them. General Motors CEO Alfred
Sloan’s legendary mastery of meeting followup helped secure GM’s industry dominance in the mid-twentieth century.
Think and say “We,” not “I.”
Your authority comes from your organization’s
trust in you. To get the best results, always
consider your organization’s needs and opportunities before your own.

Take responsibility for decisions.
Ensure that each decision specifies who’s accountable for carrying it out, when it must be implemented, who’ll be affected by it, and
who must be informed. Regularly review decisions, especially hires and promotions. This enables you to correct poor decisions before
doing real damage.
Take responsibility for communicating.
Get input from superiors, subordinates, and
peers on your action plans. Let each know
what information you need to get the job
done. Pay...
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