The Effective Executive

Any discussion on Leadership should begin with the origins of the current movement within organizations towards innovation and improvement. While Peter Drucker may not have been the first in this arena, he is certainly one of the pioneers and still some fifty years after his first writings and teachings his principles still apply to today’s corporations.

In 1966, he wrote a small book, not much more than a pamphlet at 177 pages, but a must read by anybody that wants to be The Effective Executive. In the coming sessions, I will be sharing some thoughts on this small book as I work my way through it. You can follow along by picking up the book off the web. Follow this link for a summary.

It is important to note that most of Drucker’s early work was in finance and economics and in WWII he moved into consulting, eventually working with Alfred Sloan at GM. He taught MBAs and senior executives in the private sector and government institutions. “The world knows he was the greatest management thinker of the last century,” Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric Co., said after Drucker’s death.

Chapter 1 – Effectiveness Can Be Learned

Drucker’s first observation is that all the things we still consider to be important characteristics in leaders today, like intelligence, imagination, or knowledge are not indicative of an ‘effective’ individual. On the contrary, there are many very bright people that are very ineffectual. All of these qualities: intelligence, imagination, and knowledge, are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.

We will discuss in the future ‘how’ to be effective, but first we need to discuss:

1. Why We Need Effective Executives

In an earlier post I mentioned that there was a difference between effectiveness and efficiency. Drucker coined the term ‘knowledge worker’ to describe those people within an organization with whom a dependency on the knowledge or skills they had contributed to the organization. He states that for manual work, as opposed to knowledge work, only efficiency needs to be considered. The ‘right’ task has supposedly already been assigned and the worker has to but complete the task in the most efficient manner made available to him or her. In today’s modern organization, however, the center of gravity has shifted towards the knowledge worker. Unlike the manual laborer, the knowledge worker cannot be closely supervised. She can only be helped. It is the individual contributor’s responsibility to direct their efforts towards performance and making a contribution. They must learn to be effective, i.e. doing the right things.

Today’s knowledge worker is the one factor of production that gives the developed countries their respective competitive advantages. This is made possible only through education. Education is the most expensive capital investment that one can make in terms of human resources. This is only possible in the wealthiest of countries. More and more countries are becoming aware of this phenomenon, but there is much change needed. In the now familiar example of the ‘village of one hundred’ to represent the earth’s population, only one person of the 100 would have a college education. That is one percent of the world’s population has a college education and the bulk of those are in the developed countries.

   The greatest wisdom not applied to action and behavior is meaningless data. ~ Peter Drucker


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