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Peter Drucker’s the Effective Executive: Chapter One

Updated on February 28, 2018
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Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

In his book, The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker (2006) attempts to explain the importance of effectiveness in the life of the professional executive and in the business organization of today.

In his explanation, he defines two main types of people being “manual workers,” or those who were at the bottom and simply did as they were told, and “knowledge workers,” or those at the top who knew what was happening and what needed to happen and gave the orders to those at the bottom who carried them out. In earlier times, Drucker explains that knowledge workers were not of extreme importance.

The major focus of organizations and industries was simply to find people who could follow orders and do things right in an efficient way. Quantity and quality were the name of the game. However, in more recent times, more people have been schooled in knowledge and theory and want to know why and how, and what’s the best way.

Large organizations are springing up all over the place that value that knowledge and want to be the best and the most innovative in their areas. Value has now “shifted to the knowledge worker, the man who puts to work what he has between his ears rather than the brawn of his muscles or the skill of his hands” (2006, pg.3).

Drucker states however that there are four main realities for an executive (a knowledge worker) that not only encourage but require effectiveness, at the same time making it almost impossible to do so.

The First Reality

The first reality Drucker discusses is in relation to an executive’s time. In a professional organization, an executive finds “most of their time taken up with the demands of others and for purposes which added little if anything to their effectiveness” (2006, pg.11 in the footnotes).

As a business owner, I find this a serious reality in my own life. What I need to be working on throughout the day is taking care of the business through updating the website, working on marketing and advertising, working to improve systems and our impression on clients, and ultimately to strengthen the company through building processes and more efficient procedures.

However, I find myself training consultants eight hours a day and trying to do “my job” in all of the few instances I am not on the phone. In fact, I am usually late for my next call so I can simply use the restroom between trainings. This is definitely not a productive use of my time.


The Second Reality

Drucker’s second reality for executives is the constant need to “operate” the company rather than focus on what’s truly important to further it to the next level. “What an executive needs are criteria which enable him to work on the truly important,” otherwise “he will fritter himself away ‘operating’” (2006, pg.12).

This is why I make it of ultimate importance to try to focus, throughout my day, on what I truly need to be working on, so that I no longer need to continue simply “operating” but can make a difference in the future for this company. It’s difficult to continue focusing with all of the interruptions, but I try and keep my mind on the future rather than on what is happening right now and it keeps me motivated.

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The Third Reality

The third reality is very difficult to teach to others. Those consultants coming into the company are typically not used to working in this type of professional setting where they are now a part of an organization and are not used to their actions actually affecting everyone else’s in the company.

Being an executive means being in an organization, which means “he is effective only if and when other people make use of what he contributes” (Drucker, 2006, pg. 12). This also means that negative actions on his part reverberate through the organization to touch everyone else.

Being a part of an organization means working as a team and making sure that you are working towards doing your part in the bigger vision of the company. So many of these girls are used to focusing on their own needs and only being accountable to themselves, that learning what it means to be a part of something bigger is foreign and difficult to understand. This is one of our main struggles.


The Fourth Reality

Finally, being a part of an organization is also the fourth reality, in that the view of an executive is usually limited to the inside of the organization. “He sees the outside only through thick and distorting lenses, if at all. What goes on outside is usually not even known firsthand” (Drucker, 2006, pg. 13).

Drucker goes further into describing this reality describing the lack of results due to a lack of immediacy when it comes to trends and changes outside of the company. Those on the inside don’t usually notice the changes in their niche until it’s too late and they are documented or studied and put into a format the executive normally accesses.

“The bigger and apparently more successful an organization gets to be, the more the inside events tend to engage the interests, the energies, and the abilities of the executive to the exclusion of his real tasks and his real effectiveness in the outside” (2006).

The knowledge my consultants bring to the table always seems limited to what I share or the training I provide. I would love to know how to get them motivated enough to seek out this information on their own and learn past what they are learning from me.

“Indeed, unless executives work at becoming effective, the realities of their situation will push them into futility” (Drucker, 2006, pg.10). These four realities seem to push executives into a place that discourages effectiveness, but this is our modern world.

Essentially two heads should be able to accomplish more than one, but this is why it is key to teach effectiveness and stress its importance in an organization in order for the organization to succeed.

Business runs on knowledge and innovation now. Therefore, it is ever more important for those in business to strive to be effective in all that they do. Drucker really seems to have found the key to understanding this.

I have learned a great deal so far and look forward to all of the new info I will gain from this book.


Drucker, P. (2006). The effective executive: The definitive guide to getting the right things done. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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