Peter Drucker on the effective executive

Peter Drucker defined a simple yet powerful set of characteristics of effective leaders

I've always been a huge believer in Peter Drucker and the solid business principles he promoted in his lengthy career. Drucker wasn't just a thought leader in management, he was arguably the first person to study and define the business of management.

In Drucker's book "The Effective Executive," he outlines eight basic principals that define a good executive. The book is quite short at 200 pages, and the principles are deceptively simple. But it's a testament to Drucker's insight that it remains the definitive guide to good management even 40 years after its publication.

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Drucker concluded that great managers may be charismatic or dull, generous or tightfisted, visionary or numbers oriented. But every effective executive follows eight simple practices:

  1. They ask "What needs to be done?"
  2. They ask "What is right for the enterprise?"
  3. They develop action plans
  4. They take responsibility for decisions
  5. They take responsibility for communicating
  6. They are focused on opportunities rather than problems
  7. They run productive meetings
  8. They think and say "we" rather than "I"

These were the same principles that we followed at MySQL. Routinely, CEO Marten Mickos would begin meetings with a review of Drucker's principles. They became a part of the culture (along with Swedish drinking songs, vodka shots, dolphins, running, and open source software.)

It's amazing that just following these simple guidelines how much more effective you can be as a leader. Just consider how much time is wasted on meetings that have discussion and no decision. Or how much ineffeciency there is when action plans are not developed or decisions not communicated. Many times in MySQL management meetings we reviewed key ideas to make sure we were asking what is right for the enterprise. With that focus, we could then make decisions, develop action plans, and communicate effectively in the organization.

In my next posting, I'll provide an additional set of guidelines that Marten Mickos developed to define what makes an effective executive team.

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