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Book:  The Effective Executive

Author:  Peter Drucker

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Drucker, P. (2006). The effective executive. New York: Collins.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Effective executives do not start with their tasks.  They start with their time. They start by finding out where their time actually goes.  Then they attempt to manage their time and to cut back unproductive demands on their time. (pg. 25)

  2. Identify time-wasters by looking for the recurrent "crisis". This is a crisis that comes back year after year. A crisis that recurs a second time is a crisis that must not occur again. The recurrent crisis is simply a symptom of sloppiness and laziness. (pg. 41)

  3. The first question the effective decision-maker asks is: "Is this a generic situation or an exception?"  The generic should always be answered through a rule, a principle. (pg. 123)


Other Key Ideas:

Effective executives ask "what needs to be done?" and then concentrate on only one task if at all possible. (pg. XII)​

An effective executive’s action plan has to become the basis for his or her time management. Time is an executive's scarcest and most precious resource. (pg. XV)​​

When effective executives realize they have a weakness they delegate those weaknesses to others. And everyone has weakness areas; there's no such thing as a universal executive genius. (pg. XVII)

People who fail after a promotion should be given the choice to go back to a job at their former level and salary. This option is rarely exercised as people usually leave voluntarily. But the very existence of the option can have a powerful effect by encouraging people to take a chance on a new assignment. (pg. XVII)

We all know that organizations are held together by information. Still, far too many executives behave as if information and its flow were the job of the information specialist. Each executive should identify the information he needs, ask for it, and keep pushing until he gets it. (pg. XVIII)

Effective executives make meetings productive. They know that any given meeting is either productive or a total waste of time. Also, good follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself. (pg. XX)

Effectiveness is a habit; a complex of practices. Practices are simple but are always exceedingly hard to do well. They have to be acquired. Effectiveness is learned by practicing and practicing and practicing again. (pg. 23)​​

To be effective, executives need to be able to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. This is particularly true with respect to time spent working with people, which is, of course, a central task in the work of the executive. (pg. 29)

Since the knowledge worker directs himself, he must understand what achievement is expected of him and why. The knowledge worker must be focused on the results and performance goals of the entire organization to have any results and performance at all. (pg. 30)

The first step toward executive effectiveness is to record actual time-use. (pg. 36)

"Delegation" - getting rid of anything that can be done by somebody else so that one does not have to delegate but can really get to one's own work - that is a major improvement in effectiveness. (pg. 38)

To be an effective manager of time, identify and eliminate the things that need not be done at all, the things that are purely waste of time without any results whatever. Then, identify which of the activities on my time log could be done by somebody else just as well, if not better? (pg. 38)​​​


Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed. The analysis of one's time, moreover, is the one easily accessible and yet systematic way to analyze one's work and to think through what really matters in it. (pg. 51)​​

The effective executive knows what he wants to get out of a meeting, a report, or a presentation. They insist that the purpose should be thought through and spelled out before a meeting is called. The effective executive always states at the outset of a meeting the specific purpose and contribution it is to achieve. He makes sure that the meeting addresses itself to this purpose. He always, at the end of his meetings, goes back to the opening statement and relates the final conclusions to the original intent. (pg. 69)

To tolerate diversity of employees, relationships must be task-focused rather than personality-focused. Achievement must be measured against the objective criteria of contribution and performance. (pg. 77)


It must a rule to promote the man who is best qualified for the job. All arguments to the contrary - "He is indispensable"..."He is too young"... should be thrown out. (pg. 89)​​

The effective executive does not make many decisions because he solves generic situations through a rule and policy. Therefore, an executive with many many decisions is both lazy and ineffective. (pg. 123)

No decision has been make unless specific steps have become someone's work assignment and responsibility. Until then, there are only good intentions. One has to make sure not only that responsibility for the action is clearly assigned and that the person responsible are capable. One have to make sure that they are clear in their measurements and their standards for accomplishment. (pg. 136)

Once a decision is made and responsibilities are given, the effective executive must go and look to make sure that an order has been carried out. At the very least they need to make sure that one of their aides checks to see that it is done, never rely on what you are being told by the subordinate to whom the order was given. Failure to go out and look is the typical reason for for something not getting done. (pg. 136)​

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