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The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (Harperbusiness Essentials)

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    • 4.6 stars
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What makes an effective executive?

The measure of the executive, Peter F. Drucker reminds us, is the ability to "get the right things done." This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.

Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned:
  • Managing time
  • Choosing what to contribute to the organization
  • Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect
  • Setting the right priorities
  • Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making

Ranging widely through the annals of business and government, Peter F. Drucker demonstrates the distinctive skill of the executive and offers fresh insights into old and seemingly obvious business situations.


Customer Review


the economy of time...

“Executives are not paid for doing things they like to do. They are paid for getting the right things done.”If you have read anything on leadership or management in the past few decades, you are probably already familiar with Peter Drucker. I first heard about Drucker a few years back while reading a book by a college president and over time Drucker’s name kept popping up everywhere.It was difficult to determine which book to read first. He has written dozens of books, and all of them have been universally praised. I chose The Effective Executive because it seemed to have a simple, straightforward message and it was under 200 pages. However, I was a bit weary because the book was first published in 1967.First, this book is amazing. It packed with great, applicable information. I actually think this book is more relevant today that it was when it was first written.Second, the message is amazing. The overall message is simple, “effectiveness can be learned and must be earned.” There may be some individuals better suited for leadership roles, but to be an effective manager you need to develop the skill of effectiveness.I will definitely be picking up more Drucker books in the future.Here are some gems:“Organizations are held together by information rather than by ownership or command.”“Working on the right things is what makes knowledge work effective.”“All in all, the effective executive tries to be himself.”

by Reid McCormick, February 14, 2019


Not modern, written for a 1960 audience

The book is good, the information is interesting and really important. But the reading is tiresome, the language is from 1960. A lot of what the author tries to say in the book could be said in a few chapters, but he decided to fill the book with useless alergories and confusing examples.But the worst part of all is that the content is not modern. The author uses examples when my grandfather was 20 years old. That might be good as the concepts he is trying to share are the same, but it is very hard for a 27 year-old to relate to.Overall, three stars because I was able to extract good information out of it, but I was hoping for more, way more than I got.

by Renato Alves, May 29, 2019


Know Thyself

Where and how do I spend my time?Am I staying busy or achieving results?What are my strengths?Is there a system to my decision making?Am I a reader or a listener?These are a few of the questions asked on my reading of The Effective Executive.Am I an executive?In the true sense of the word, no!In how I practice and diligently follow Drucker’s prescription for being an effective executive, yes!Zeke ContrerasSunday, May 31, 2020San Antonio, Texas

by Esequiel Contreras Jr, May 31, 2020


How and why, “like every other discipline, effectiveness can be learned and must be earned

Note: Amazon continues to feature reviews of earlier editions. What immediately follows is my review of the 50th anniversary edition published today, January 24, 2017. What then follows is my review of an earlier edition.* * *This is the 50th anniversary edition of a book first published in 1967. Jim Collins provides the Foreword and Zachary First the Afterword. In my opinion, Peter Drucker (1909-2005) is the most influential business thinker as indicated by the endless list of other thought leaders who continue to acknowledge his value and significance to their own work. He always insisted on referring to himself as a “student” or “bystander.” With all due respect to his wishes, I have always viewed him as a pioneer who surveyed and defined dimensions of the business world that no one else had previously explored.Consider this passage in the Foreword: “Here are ten lessons I learned from Peter Drucker and this book, and that I offer as a small portal of entry into the mind of the greatest management thinker off all time.” These are the lessons that Collins cites and discusses:1. First, manage thyself.2. Do what you’re made for.3. Work how you work best (and let others do the same).4. Count your time, and make it count.5. Prepare better meetings.6. Don’t make a hundred decisions when one will do.7. Find your one big distinctive impact.8. Stop what you would not start.9. Run lean.10. Be useful.“He was in the end, Collins adds, "the highest level of what a teacher can be: a role model of the very ideas he taught, a walking testament to his teachings in the tremendous lasting effect of his own life.”As was true of Collins and will be true 0f everyone else who reads one of the several editions, they will have their own take-aways. Drucker provides a framework in the Introduction, stressing while discussing the importance of eight specific practices that all great business and non-profit CEOs are committed to, such as asking “What needs to be done?” and “What is right for the enterprise?” The first two enable them to obtain the information they need.The next four help them to convert this knowledge into effective action:3. Develop action plans.4. Take responsibility for decisions [and their consequences].5. Take responsibility for communicating.6. Are focused on opportunities rather on problems.The last two ensure that the entire organization feels responsible and accountable7. Run productive meetings.8. Think and feel “we” rather than “I.”Yes, these are basic and obvious practices but they were not five decades ago. Until Drucker, thinking about management lacked order, structure, clarity, and focus. Borrowing a phrase from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Drucker developed thinking about management to “the other side of complexity.” To paraphrase, Albert Einstein, Drucker made management “as simple as possible but no simpler.”In the Introduction Peter Drucker concludes, “We’ve just covered eight practices of effective executives. I’m going to throw in one final, bonus practice. This one’s so important that I’ll elevate it to the level of a rule: [begin italics] Listen first, speak last [end italics]”...And, like every discipline, effectiveness [begin italics] can [end italics] and [begin italics] must [end italics] be earned.”The title of this review is a portion of one of Peter Drucker's most important insights: "The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The true dangerous thing is asking the wrong question."* * *I first read this book when it was originally published in 1967 and have since re-read it several times because, in my opinion, it provides some of Peter Drucker's most important insights on how to "get the right work done and done the right way." By nature an "executive" is one who "executes," producing a desired result (an "effect") that has both impact and value. As Drucker once observed in an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review at least 40 years ago, "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." Therefore, the effective executive must develop sound judgment. Difficult - sometimes immensely difficult - decisions must be made. Here are eight practices that Drucker recommended 45 years ago:o Ask, "what needs to be done?"o Ask, "What is right for the enterprise?"o Develop an action plano Take responsibility for decisions.o Take responsibility for communications.o Focus on opportunities rather than on problems.o Conduct productive meetings.o Think in terms of first-person PLURAL pronouns ("We" rather than "I").The first two practices give executives the knowledge they need; the next four help them convert this knowledge into effective action; the last two ensure that the entire organization feels responsible and accountable, and will thus be more willing to become engaged. "I'm going to throw in one final, bonus practice. This one's so important that I'll elevate it to the level of a rule: [begin italics] Listen first, speak last." [end italics]This volume consists of eight separate but interdependent essays that begin with "Effectiveness Can Be Learned" and conclude with "Effective Decisions." Actually, there is a "Conclusion" in which Drucker asserts that "Effectiveness Must Be Learned." I agree. The essays are arranged in a sequence that parallels a learning process that prepares an executive to "assume responsibility, rather than to act the subordinate, satisfied only if he `pleases the boss.' In focusing himself and his vision on contribution the executive, in other words, has to think through purposes and ends rather than means alone."I highly recommend this to all executives who need an easy-to-read collection of reminders of several basic but essential insights from one of the most important business thinkers, Peter Drucker. I also presume to suggest that they, in turn, urge each of their direct reports to obtain a copy and read it. The last time I checked, Amazon sells a paperbound edition for only $11.55. Its potential value is incalculable.

by Robert Morris, January 13, 2012


Oldie but Goodie

So if you’ve been reading business books or just working for a long time you will be familiar with many of the concepts in this book. However, for me, reading it was extremely valuable because it is the source code for so much business thinking. After reading it you can see where Steven Covey expanded on Drucker and built a billion dollar empire and countless other business best sellers too I’m sure. Interestingly some of the ideas in this book have been validated using modern scientific analysis unavailable to Drucker in the 1960s, e.g., Zenger & Folkman demonstrating the importance of focusing on strengths and not weaknesses. Most importantly though, there’s a lot of really excellent and practical tools. For example, I’ve started using Alfred Sloan’s memo template for post meeting clarity, I use Drucker’s questions a manager should ask about needs for negotiations and 1 on 1 meetings. I definitely recommend you buy, read, and use this book.

by Ardis, June 13, 2021


Very interesting.

This book is one of those books that is a must for anyone that wants to be more financially savvy. One of the main teachings in this book is that we are moving into a information age where we wont use that much physical hands on stuff and more knowledge. It makes sense and you can already see it happening in the world... physical stuff closing down (shops, buildings ) unemployment etc. The wolrd is changing. It calls for a new type of worker, a "knowledge worker" as Drucker teach us.The only negative thing i can say is that this book can be a little hard to get into, you can see the person that wrote it has high level of seeing things and didnt write it in a way that everyone would understand clearly and the avarage joe might find it a bit hard reading and understanding

by John Macklin, October 28, 2012


A classic and interesting book

This was a pleasant book to read. Drucker writes well and offers plenty of food for thought. The essence:1. Effective executives know where their time goes.2. Effective executives focus on outward contribution3. They build on strengths4. They concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results5. They make effective decisions.This is not a manual on how to be effective but it is a classic and interesting book and a joy to read.

by Melvin, December 23, 2011


2nd to none

It is not a long book, but if you ever bother thinking about reading a business book, this is the one. It is not current, so some of the references to big industry are very dated, but the concept remains the same - good (excellent) executive performance is excellent executive performance. If this is not mandated reading in a business school - then it is not a business school.

by D. I. Gray, June 22, 2014


Four Stars

Very helpful tips and although I'm not into self help books, this one was worth reading.

by Luci, July 13, 2017


Great book, quick delivery

Would buy again

by PatE, February 2, 2020

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