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Executives are a special class of knowledge worker. Where a particularly talented individual might impact a large circle of coworkers, the executive’s output affects the whole organization.

In Drucker’s thinking an executive can exist anywhere in the organization, not just at the CXO level. For our purposes, let’s imagine a functional manager (Finance, Marketing, R&D, etc.) in a company of any size. These folks are usually super achievers with a lot of talent and, as Kahneman might say, a lot of luck. They come in all personality types, shapes, genders, and sizes but the good ones, maybe only the great ones, can deliver on an executive’s true value:

  • Create direct business results linked to the strategic plan
  • Multiply their impact by working through others in the organization
  • Build the organization’s values and constantly reaffirm them
  • Build and develop tomorrow’s talent
  • Take action to ensure that innovation is a top priority.

I’ve worked with many executives. Too often they are considered successes or failures based on their ability to work inside their organizations. Too seldom were they judged based on their impact on customers, shareholders, and the marketplace.

Regardless, I think it’s fair to say one of biggest challenges for any executive is keeping one foot in the organization as it is (the past) and one foot in the organization as it must become to survive (the future). If you are an executive, lean forward.


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