The Effective Executive: Summary & Review

the effective executive book

The Effective Executive teaches corporate executives folks how to be effective managers and executives.

Bullet Summary

  • Effectiveness is learned: study it and practice and you’ll become effective
  • Start by analyzing your current use time: how do you spend it? Make it more efficient and consolidate it
  • Focus on contribution and results, not on effort

Full Summary

About the Author:
Peter Drucker was a management consultant and author who penned no less than 39 (!) books.
The Effective Executive was first published in 1966, and it’s mostly aimed at executives of big corporations.

Eight Practices of Effective Executives 

  1. Ask what needs to be done– focus on what your company needs and will make the biggest impact on your goals
  2. Ask what’s good for the organization – focus on what’s good for the company, not yourself or other executives
  3. Create an action plan – action without planning can be harmful
  4. Assume responsibility for your actions – assign responsibilities and take ownership of your action items
  5. Communicate your plan– both up and down the chain
  6. Seek opportunities – threats avoid problems, and opportunities increase the bottom line
  7. Make your meetings productive – meetings are either productive or a waste of time. Make meetings effective and end them on time
  8. Go from “I”: to “we” – It doesn’t matter what’s essential for you too. Instead, what’s necessary for the company is what matters

A meeting is either productive or a total waste of time

Effectiveness Can Be Learned

A central tenet of The Effective Executive is that effectiveness can be learned and should be learned. Indeed, an effective executive must learn to be effective.

You need to lead by example, and you can only demand efficiency if you first learn to be efficient yourself.

Time Management 

The number one priority of effectiveness is managing your time well.
To do that you must:

  1. Track your time: to learn where you spend it
  2. Manage your time: eliminate the unnecessary, prioritize, and outsource
  3. Consolidate your time: put large blocks of focus time together

Simple yet great idea: Simply by tracking you will improve your effectiveness.
Why? Because you won’t want to write “1h wasted on the YouTube cat videos” 🙂

Build on Strengths

Effective executives focus on what they can do well.
This is the idea:

Make your strengths so strong that you weaknesses won’t matter anymore.

With an important caveat: unless your weaknesses are moral and ethical, in which case you need to address them.

Similarly, effective executives focus on what their teams and the people around them can do well. They delegate based on people’s strengths and delegate tasks in a way that compensates for their own weaknesses.

Put Things First

Prioritization is the essence of effectiveness. Always start with the most urgent and important task.

One Thing At a Time

Multitasking is a myth.
The effective executive focuses on the most important task first until it’s done. That’s the secret of those who seem to be doing so many things, Drucker says, they do them one at a time.

Learn What to Say No To

On top of prioritizing and doing things one at a time, learning what to say no to is as important as choosing what to dedicate yourself to.

For more on effectively saying no, read:

5 Techniques to Say No (Polite, But Effective)

Demand More of Yourself

Our growth is highly dependent on the demands we place on ourselves. Effective executives demand a lot of themselves.

Focus on Contribution

People who rise through the rank don’t focus on their tasks, but they always ask themselves “what can I contribute” and “how can I help the organization move forward”.

Drucker says that those who focus on the effort are always junior employees. And those who focus on contribution are top management material.

Listen First, Speak Last

Listening first is a staple of many communication manuals. See for example: crucial conversations and difficult conversations.
And, I would also add, it’s also the hallmark of people with authority.

Also, read:

the effective executive book

Real-Life Applications

Focus on Contribution
To me, the biggest and most helpful tip from The Effective Executive is to focus on contribution. To move away from your tasks to doing and providing whatever it is that will move the organization forward.
When you equip yourself with that mentality, you have the mentality of a CEO.

Track Your Time
I like the idea of tracking your time as a tool to increase your efficiency. It can be an effective tool to eliminate waste.


So Successful That You Will Know Much of This Stuff
If you have been reading about self-development, a lot of “The Effective Executive” advice won’t be new to you. But it can serve as a good reminder.

Bannister Effect Myth
The Effective Executive perpetuates the self-help myth of the Bannister effect, which is more of a psychology feel-good story than reality.


Many of The Basics of Effective Time-Management Are Here
Most of the basics on how to be efficient are here.


What can I say, “The Effective Executive” is a classic with raving reviews, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me.

There is nothing wrong with it.
But I personally didn’t find anything groundbreaking, either.

Even if all the tenets are true and make sense, they are not new to anyone who’s been around self-development for a while.

Also, as the founder of a website on Power Moves, I’m not a huge fan of laws that look good on paper but seldom apply in reality.
For example “do what’s good for the company” leaves a bit “meh” when we know there are plenty of examples of people who got successful by doing the opposite.

Also, see:

Read the best books collection or get the book on Amazon

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