THE BLOG
01/15/2015 06:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Businesses Need More "Executives"

2015-01-15-tie.jpgSome things seem so basic to the business world that no one bothers to question them. One term I hear kicked around quite a bit is the word "executive." Of course, everyone knows an executive is one of the people at the top of the hierarchical pyramid, generally a VP, President, or member of the C-Suite -- someone in a senior management position, right?

Of course, they qualify. But BusinessDictionary.com offers a wider definition of "executive" as "A person or group appointed and given the responsibility to manage the affairs of an organization and the authority to make decisions within specified boundaries." That means an emerging leader, supervisor, or middle manager can function as an executive. In today's flexible, speedy organization, where strategy execution often takes place on the front line, every leader -- with or without a management title -- has the authority to make significant bottom-line decisions for the benefit of the entire organization. Using that definition, the word "executive" today can refer to almost...well...anyone.

Things have changed remarkably in the past half-century. In Peter Drucker's 1967 classic The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, business executives were invariably male and limited to the uppermost echelon, and they held tightly to their authority.

Today, we have no choice but to execute flexible strategies on the spot, at ALL levels, to maximize productivity and thus profitability. To be effective and efficient, the less we must seek permission before acting, the better. As the saying goes, "It's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission." For routine decisions, let your manager know, "Unless you tell me otherwise, here is the direction I'm taking." Without this approach, you can may stall out waiting for a yes or no. Will you make mistakes? Of course. But it's better than making no decisions at all. Refuse to be like Buridan's Ass, standing between two equally tasty piles of hay and starving to death because you can't decide what to do. In real life, the market will decide for you if you wait -- usually in the competition's favor.

The modern leader doesn't have the luxury of patience, because slow, rigid hierarchies snap in the modern whirlwind of business. Even lower-level professionals can and should bridge the gap from worker to executive, whether they get "executive pay" or not. "That's not my job," you say?

Put it this way: workers just work for their paychecks, benefiting only themselves. Executives execute, hoping to benefit the entire company as well -- they are more entrepreneurial in their mindsets. In this sense, it seems to me that most companies need more executives, not fewer. Are you an executive without a management title? What's your take on the subject? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below and register for my weekly productivity bulletin.

© 2015 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America's Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook or Twitter.