What Makes an Effective Executive?

by Peter F. Drucker

An effective executive does not need to be a leader in the sense that the term is now most commonly used. Harry Truman did not have one ounce of charisma, for example, yet he was among the most effective chief executives in U.S. history. Similarly, some of the best business and nonprofit CEOs I’ve worked with over a 65-year consulting career were not stereotypical leaders. They were all over the map in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. They ranged from extroverted to nearly reclusive, from easygoing to controlling, from generous to parsimonious.

What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:

  • They asked, “What needs to be done?”
  • They asked,”What is right for the enterprise?”
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I”.

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action.The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.

Vocabulary Help

  • action plan – plano de ação
  • easygoing – agradável
  • eight practices – oito práticas
  • leader – lí­der
  • need – precisar, necessitar
  • parsimonious – parcimonioso
  • productive meetings – reuniões produtivas
  • range – variar
  • strengths – pontos fortes
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I.” – Eles pensavam e diziam “nós” ao invés de “Eu”.
  • They took responsibility for communicating – Eles assumiam responsabilidade pela comunicação
  • They took responsibility for decisions – Eles assumiam responsabilidade pelas decisões
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems – Eles focavam nas oportunidades ao invés dos problemas
  • weaknesses – fraquezas
  • What is right for the enterprise? – O que é melhor/certo para a empresa?
  • what needs to be done? – o que precisa ser feito?