In a recent podcast episode, Tim Ferriss talked about selectively arranging the books in his home so that he can see the covers of the books that he wants to be reminded of daily. I put The Effective Executive in the category of books I want to be reminded of daily. It clearly defined the type of “knowledge work” a lot of people engage in today. Instead of using our physical strength, we’re using our brains. Manual work can be measured by efficiency. Knowledge work can be measured by effectiveness, or the ability of getting the right things done.
The Effective Executive rests upon two premises – that the executive’s job is to be effective and that effectiveness can be learned. What follows is a meaty yet pithy book on how to manage oneself for effectiveness. Managing an organization will become a byproduct of self-managing:
…the self-development of an effective executive is true development of the person.
To be an effective executive, Drucker lays out the necessary requirements of analyzing one’s time, specializing, knowing oneself (skills and styles of working), concentrating, and deciding.
Peter Drucker highlighted two concepts that really challenged my thinking. The first was his assertion that capital is an abundant resource and time is the main scarce resource. I remember learning that labor and capital were the scare resources in Economics 101. If time is the scarce resource, then it is extremely important how we use that time.
The second concept was that of specialization. He said the universal genius is rare. The Effective Executive should focus on one area and become the best. In hiring decisions, the executive should only hire people uncommonly good at their area of expertise. Don’t look for someone who dabbles in a variety of areas. This makes sense, but I’ve always considered someone with a broad array of interests and skills to be more effective. Drucker says that is not the case.
The Effective Executive is easily one of the best business books I’ve read. It made me think deeply about my skills, my business, and my future. This is a must-read for anyone looking to better manage themselves or an organization.
This is book 14 of 52 of the 2017 Books of Titans reading list.