Over a decade ago, the legendary Peter Drucker enumerated eight practices he observed in effective leaders:
- Ask: “What needs to be done?”
- Ask: “What is right for the organization?”
- Develop action plans.
- Take responsibility for decisions.
- Take responsibility for communicating.
- Focus on opportunities rather than problems.
- Run productive meetings.
- Think and say “we” instead of “I.”
These practices can be applied to small or large groups of activities you need to lead. They can also be used in iterations fitting a sequential or spiral pattern as appropriate to your current needs.
Another way to look at these practices is:
- Gather knowledge
- Convert knowledge into appropriate actions
- Get everyone to feel responsible and accountable.
I like to think of the first practice as a process of gathering data about your external and internal environmental factors. This could be existing reports or data analysis about your organization, its legal parameters, your staff, the market or markets in which you operate, and much more.
The second practice focuses on your organizational mission, values, goals, principles, and strategies. These factors help give context to the actions you propose and evaluate during the third practice.
Developing effective action plans should be straightforward if you have adequately performed the first two practices. If not, move back into those steps to elaborate on your knowledge.
Once you have a plan of action, you must lead yourself and your organization to actually execute the activities you have described. You must accept responsibility for the plan developed (practice 4) and then motivate others to accept responsibility for their parts of the plan (practice 5). Practices 6, 7, and 8 are approaches to how you should think and talk about your action plan in order to foster staff buy-in and active support.
It’s also important that you apply these practices consistently over time and changing circumstances. This consistency will build trust and teamwork within and across your organization. In fact, application of these practices should become so ingrained in your organization that they are executed seamlessly and routinely.
Don’t forget to periodically take a look at this list to evaluate how effectively you are using these practices. Use the knowledge you gain to improve your future practice iterations.