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For executives, the job is not simply to ensure that "things get done;" it's to ensure the right things get done, at the right time, and in the right way.

The Effective Executive teaches that the role of leadership in every organization is to set clear objectives, focus their strengths on priorities, and make tough choices about what to do and what not to do in different circumstances. These aren't innate abilities. They are skills that can be learned through study, practice, and experience.


Effectiveness can be learned

An executive must first be able to effectively manage themselves before they can manage others by making effectiveness a habit. Effectiveness is a skill that is learned by practice. By focusing on what behaviors are effective and using those behaviors consistently, effectiveness becomes a habit. It takes a conscious effort to learn how to be effective, and it requires five basic habits.

  • Managing time
  • Focusing on contributions and results
  • Building on strengths instead of weaknesses
  • Setting priorities
  • Making effective decisions

Managing time

  • Time is the resource that must be managed effectively to be able to build the other habits — Most executives are self-directed. How they use their time is largely up to them and requires a constant awareness of how time is spent. Executives spend a lot of time on planning, reports, meetings, and human resources. The larger the organization, the more time spent in those areas. The best way to get a handle on managing time is by focusing on three key points.
  • Time-monitoring — By recording the amount of time spent on particular tasks and projects, it becomes easy to see where all that time is going. Day-to-day activities should receive the most attention because of their frequency.
  • Control time — When executives begin to ask what activities are necessary, what tasks are inefficient, and similar questions, they begin to find chunks of time that are wasted. If done objectively, this process will result in revamping activities or eliminating them altogether.
  • Consolidate time — Effective executives must learn to plan their time. Between all those meetings and reports are blocks of time. By knowing where these "windows" of time exist, it's possible to carve out uninterrupted blocks for completing activities.

Contributions and results

What someone contributes to an organization should be measured by the results. By focusing on contributions and taking responsibility for the results, it becomes easy to see opportunities for self-development. Understanding what contributions are productive and what areas need improvement makes it possible to set high standards and ambitious goals. Analyzing and fine-tuning contributions leads to more effective results.

Building on strengths

When executives recruit people with particular strengths, they can create a strong foundation for their own effectiveness. The goal here is to focus specifically on the strengths that an organization needs in specific roles and ignoring the weaknesses. By recruiting someone for a particular role that matches their strengths, the weaknesses become irrelevant. Don't focus on problems and limitations; focus on opportunities and abilities. The key is to hire people with exceptional qualities, not generalists.

Setting priorities

Effective people understand what activities are the most important and have the greatest impact. These priorities are the things that simply must be done. They should be first-up when it comes to time management, and they must have undivided attention. Multitasking sounds great, but completing these important tasks one at a time often produces better results. By combining time, strengths, and resources in focusing on a specific priority, it actually makes efforts more time efficient.

Making effective decisions

Executives have the responsibility of making decisions that have a significant impact on the organization and the people who work there. Decisions must be more than just problem-solving to be effective. These decisions must be based on sound principles with an understanding of how they affect the whole organization. Effective executives understand that compromises are a part of the decision-making process and that all decisions require a lot of thought on how that decision will be put into effect. Above all, decisions must be implemented and accepted before they can be effective.