Becoming an Effective Executive: HBR Must Reads on Leadership Review #2

In leadership by title models, becoming an effective leader is to become an effective executive. In the second article in HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Leadership, world-renowned leadership thinker Peter F. Drucker focuses on the practices of an effective executive. Essentially, he claims that leadership is not innate. Leverage specific practices and you too can be a leader. In particular he talks about 8 key practices of disciplined leaders.

“Leadership Isn’t about personality or talent. In fact, the best leaders exhibit wildly different personalities.” Peter F. Drucker
8 Practices of Leadership:
  1. The asked, “what needs to be done?”
  2. They asked, “what is right for the enterprise?”
  3. They developed action plans.
  4. They took responsibility for decisions.
  5. They took responsibility for communication.
  6. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  7. They ran productive meetings.
  8. They thought and said “we” rather than ”I”

What works about Drucker’s approach, is that it is grounded in having the right information, executing through actionable steps and accountability to the plan. As Drucker says, “leaders, they get the right things done, in the right ways. So if you don’t have the ‘right stuff’, then you can practice the following behaviors and rise to become a leader in your organization.” There is a “we” the organization mentality that is more holistic than the traditional focus on “I”. There is also the emphasis to focus on opportunities, and not problems, and personal accountability for decisions and communications. As you can probably already see, this model places the focus of leadership on the effective management of everything that drives towards consistent performance outcomes and results. Needless to say, the 8 practices of leadership, is a very behavioral model that engenders trust through disciplined action.

As previously stated, this model does broaden the conceptualization of who can be a leader to people previously not considered one, but it is very much grounded in the Corporate Mindset:

  • It promotes a mastery of one-size-fits all leadership that can lead to a rather superficial façade that mimics pseudo-transformational leadership (connection, but no action), just in the opposite way (e.g., action, but no connection).
  • The focus of success is internal to the organization with little information connected to humanity or accountability for how results play out in the outside world. As long as business inside the walls is tracking well, one will be promoted and isn’t that a grand sign of leadership?!
  • The collection of information and determination of the opportunity is the purview of the leader, but defining opportunity must be done through consensus or risks selection bias.
  • There is accountability, but not a collective responsibility that engages the entire team in leading well.
“Production by machine had led to the peculiar illusion that the road to excellence is straight and pleasant…thinking in the industrialized world covets no failures and knows no excellence.”Erich Fromm

This model is highly applicable, but primarily for those who are tracking towards a designated position of leadership within an organization and not becoming a leader. Executive models of leadership can be dangerous because they track people towards a position, title, and pay. Leadership is about being a leader, anywhere and everywhere, regardless of pay. It is about having an authentic model and more personalized brand of leadership that is centered on your strengths that can then be applied to all situations and opportunities in life, inside and outside of work or the corporation. Tracking the behaviors of executives by rank and title is superficial, and a poor indicator of success. Only in the linear illusion of success does this matter. Such a myopic view of leadership can lead to high performers who have no soulful connection to the vision, the work, the team, or the organization.

Want to follow along?

Purchase the HBR's 10 Must Reads On Leadership to follow along our reviews.

Click Here