Ten Ways an Executive Can Benefit from His Secretary

The secretary can make or break the executive.  If utilized effectively, the secretary can double the efficiency of the executive.

A secretary discussing a document with a staff

The secretary  does not head a department, division, section or unit but he or she is vitally necessary to run the immediate office of the executive.  He or she serves as the hands and feet of the executive.

With the vital role a secretary plays for the executive, he or she must be hand-picked by the executive.  It’s necessary that this important person be carefully selected, trained and utilized by the executive.

In his book, How Managers Make Things Happen, George S. Odiorne says on the selection of a secretary:

The first step is to identify what kind of manager you are yourself.  Then you can describe what qualifications your secretary should have, or what work habits he or she should develop to get you further along in personal productivity.

Let’s assume that you are, by nature, a detail-lover. You love checking the minutiae of the work of your department.  Your secretary should then have the soul of an FBI agent when it comes to patiently seeking out and obtaining information you’ll want for your decision-making processes….”

Regional Directors, like me, of the Philippine Postal Corporation are reassigned from region to region, when our Postmaster General finds it necessary, in the exigency of the service.

When we assume office at another region, we inherit the secretary of our predecessor.  The secretary of the postal region is holding the position of an Executive Assistant.

Since Regional Directors have different management and leadership styles, adjusting and training the inherited secretary to our style is really a great challenge.  It needs a lot of understanding, patience and perseverance.

After a total of almost two decades of handling a division, a department and three postal regional offices, I have listed down the ways an executive can benefit from his or her secretary, so that he or she (executive) can efficiently do the fundamental function of planning and decision-making and enhance further his or her conceptual skill.

Here are the ways a secretary can effectively assist the executive:

1.  On Handling the Mail and Paperwork

  • Opens and sorts incoming mail.  Mail which do not require decision shall be immediately endorsed to offices concerned.
  • Handles and analyzes  “IN” basket items.  Items that could not be handled with confidence could be carefully organized, prioritized, and brought to the executive with a recommendation or a note or a previous communication on the issue which serves as a guide to the executive on the action to be taken on the item.
  • Handles routine inquiries.
  • Reviews communications, reports and other documents which require signature of the executive.

2.   On Handling Telephone Calls

  • Screen and ask all callers of the executive for their names and the nature of their business.
  • Collects information the executive needs for call-backs.
  • Makes calls on  behalf of the executive.

3.  On Screening

  • Screens drop-in visitors, directing them elsewhere or setting up definite appointments for them.
  • Protects the executive’s  private time from interruption.
  • Deals with many drop-in visitors on her own, giving feedback to the executive.
  • Puts files or relevant documents on the executive’s desk before scheduled appointments.
  • Greets visitors; escorts them to the executive’s  office.
  • Calls to remind the executive of “another task” if guests stay past time.

4.  On Calendar work

  • Compares the executive’s calendar with his or hers daily.
  • Knows where to reach the executive at all times.
  • Makes appointments for the executive in coordination with each other.
  • Maintains tickler file.

5.  On Filing

  • Files at least once a week.
  • Adopts system for easy retrieval of files.
  • Maintains records-retention plan.

6.  On Reading

  • Marks articles and relevant sections of long reports for the executive’s attention.
  • Summarizes main points of articles and reports.

7.  On Meetings

  • Sits in to take notes.
  • Tracks assignments and makes sure that they are fulfilled.
  • May attend meetings as the executive’s representative.

8.  On Feedbacks

  • Keeps the executive updated on issues and concerns affecting the office.
  • Monitors actions taken by the staff on documents and instructions from the executive.

9.  On Office Supervision

  • Keeps track of, and orders office supplies.
  • Schedules servicing for equipment.
  • Sees to it that executive’s office is clean and orderly

10.  On Other Services

  • Makes travel arrangements/reservations.
  • Makes itinerary of travel for the executive.
  • Organizes office functions: conferences, luncheons, etc.
  • Monitors executive’s  time; i.e., makes sure he or she follows through on daily appointments.
  • Takes on independent projects.

Do you have any other ways to add to this list?  If you have, I am inviting you to leave your comments after reading this post and add your thoughts .

Your friend,

Nimia Acebes

A Leader Must Know People

As a leader, how well do you know your people?  How well do you know their desires, values and dreams?

A leader must influence and empower his or her people.   Influence and empowerment is more effective if the leader loves and relates to his or her people.  Anybody who loves or relates to someone must know him or her as a whole person.

We hear a leader saying to his or her people, “ I’m only interested on what you do in the workplace.  I don’t care what you are or on what you do outside the office.”

If the leader focuses only on the actions or activities of his or her people at the workplace, he or she tends to be judgmental or condemnatory.

Each one has his or her own story, history, behavior, attitudes and habits.  If a leader knows how his or her people got where they are or who they are, he or she is less likely to condemn and more likely to understand and love them.

A leader also needs to know who his or her people can become so that he or she can help develop their career .

During my first assignment as a Postal Regional Director, I asked for the 201 files of my management staff and studied their personal data.

Later on, I realized that actual face to face interaction is more effective than studying the 201 files.  I want to have an eye to eye contact with my staff.

I let some of the employees join with me during my inspection trips, at the restaurants, at the malls and other places.  Through casual conversations, I came to know about their family, educational background, experiences and some of their stories.  In these bonding, I listen more than talk because I want to know them as a whole person.

I don’t appreciate an employee who talk much of other people when we are together because I’m interested to know about him or her more than anybody else.

There was one time when an employee invited me to see a movie with her.  I’m not really fond of seeing movies, but I joined with her to know her more.  It was a great bonding, a very unforgettable one.

A leader must invest in the relationship in order to know people.


In his book, The Power Principle, Dr. Blaine Lee says:

“The better we know who they are, the better we can serve them and help them become what they are capable of becoming.  We must pay a price to know them, but the potential rewards are immense. And when we love them, we can influence them in ways that may last their entire lives.”

Dr. Lee also suggests words to say to ourselves to check for knowledge of people:

Do I understand what they want?

Do I know them?  How well?

Can I see the whole person?

Do I know this person outside of this situation or task?

Have I “done my homework” on them as well as on what I want them to do?

How will do I really see them?

Am I willing to pay the price to know them?


As a Leader, On What Level are You Now?

Since yesterday, I have been re-reading Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell.  The five levels of leadership which the author brilliantly described caught my attention.


Level 1: Position

This is the basic entry to leadership.  People follow the leader due to his title which is often gained by appointment.  People will not follow a positional leader beyond his stated authority.  People who stay at this level get into territorial rights.

Level 2: Permission

The leader leads by interrelationships.  John Maxwell says, “People who are unable to build solid, lasting relationships will soon discover that they are unable to sustain long, effective leadership…Needless to say, you can love people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without loving them.”

John Maxwell advises us not to skip a level.

Level 3: Production

People here are results-oriented.  People follow the leader because of what he has done for the organization.

Level 4: People Development

People follow the leader because of what he has done for them.

Level 5: Personhood

People follow the leader because of who he is and what he represents.  Only few make it to this level.

Most of us are in the position level yet.  To advance to level 2, John Maxwell listed below some characteristics that must be exhibited with excellence:

  • Know your job description thoroughly.
  • Be aware of the history of the organization.
  • Relate the organization’s history to the people of the organization (in other words, be a team player).
  • Accept responsibility.
  • Do your job with consistent excellence.
  • Do more than expected.
  • Offer creative ideas for change and improvement.

The Ability to Persuade

An incident happened at office yesterday.  A manager recommended a reassignment of an employee and his supervisor opposed to the idea.  An argument took place which resulted to bullying by the manager.  The supervisor, in turn, bursted in tears.

Incidents like this really happen in the office, at home or anywhere. How could the leader influence others to do or follow what he wants them to do?

First, the leader must connect with the people he leads.  The leader must love his people.  If he has a stained relationship with the one he leads, influence would be difficult.  If he shows love and care for his people, anything he does or presents would be easily accepted by them.

Second, the leader must not only possess the abilities and skills of a leader but he must also be a H.O.T. one. H.O.T. which means hands-on and transactional is coined from the term used in the book of Bruce Tulgan.  As a hands-on leader, he spends lots of time with employees spelling out expectations and clarifying standards.

Third, the leader is a role model to his people.  He walks the talk.  He has integrity, his words and actions match.  He is honest and trustworthy.

Fourth, the leader is a good communicator. He must be able to communicate to his people the reasons and the rationale behind his decisions and requests, presenting the needed data, if possible. In doing this, he must also maintain a genuine respect for others’ ideas and perspectives.  If we show willingness to listen to our people first, it will be easy for us to influence them to agree to our opinions and decisions.

According to Dr. Blaine Lee of the Power Principle, these are the words we say to ourselves to check for persuasion:

Have I told them why?

Do they understand why?

Have I tried to help them understand why?

Would it help if they understood why?

Would I like them to understand why?

101 Best Leadership Quotes

Here are my choices for the 101 best leadership quotes arranged alphabetically according to author’s first name.

Adolf Hitler

1. The art of leadership . . . consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention. . . . The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belong to one category.

Andrew Carnegie

2. No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.

Anthony D’Angelo

3. You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.

Anthony Jay

4. The only real training for leadership is leadership.

Arnold Glasgow

5. One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.

6. A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.

Arthur Carmazzi

7. Leadership is NOT about changing the mindset of the individual or group, but in the cultivation of an environment that brings out the best and even inspires the individuals in that group to do what needs to be done.

Arthur W. Newcomb

8. Show me the leader and I will know his men. Show me the men and I will know their leader.

Barack Obama

9. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Bear Bryant

10. If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes real good, you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games.

Bill Bradley

11. Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.

Buck Rodgers

12. A real leader has the ability to motivate others to their highest level of achievement; then gives them the opportunity and the freedom to grow.

Claude Taylor

13. A leader certainly needs a clear vision of the organization and where it is going, but a vision is of little value unless it is shared in a way so as to generate enthusiasm and commitment. Leadership and communication are inseparable.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

14. You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.

Elbert Hubbard

15. Power flows to the man who knows how. Responsibilities gravitate to the person who can shoulder them.

Frank Tyger

16. One of the greatest talents of all is the talent to recognize and to develop talent in others.

General Colin Powell

17. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.

Harvey S. Firestone

18. The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.

Harvey Mackay

19. A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.

20. If you wish others to believe in you, you must first convince them that you believe in them.

Henry David Thoreau

21. He is the best sailor who can steer within fewest points of the wind and exact a motive power out of the greatest obstacles.

Jack Welch

22. Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.

23. The world of the 1990s and beyond will not belong to ‘managers’ or those who can make the numbers dance. The world will belong to passionate, driven leaders – people who not only have enormous amounts of energy but who can energize those whom they lead.

24. Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.

James Boren

25. It is hard to look up to a leader who keeps his ear to the ground.

James Crook

26. A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.

Jim Collins

27. I’ve never found an important decision made by a great organization that was made at a point of unanimity. Significant decisions carry risks and inevitably some will oppose it. In these settings, the great legislative leader must be artful in handling uncomfortable decisions, and this requires rigor.

Jim Rohn

28. A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

29. Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.

John F. Kennedy

30. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

John Maxwell

31. A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.

32. Most people who want to get ahead do it backward. They think, ‘I’ll get a bigger job, then I’ll learn how to be a leader.’ But showing leadership skill is how you get the bigger job in the first place. Leadership isn’t a position, it’s a process.

33. Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.

34. Leadership is more ? if not much more ? influence, rather than position.

35. Leadership is influence.

36. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

37. People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.

38. Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.

39. Anyone can follow a path, but only a leader can blaze one.

40. Once our minds are ‘tattooed’ with negative thinking, our chances for long-term success diminish.

41. Character creates consistency, and if your people know what they can expect from you, they will continue to look to you for leadership.

42. Great communication depends on two simple skills—context, which attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience, and delivery, which allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.

43. Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it.

44. Take the emotional temperature of those listening to you. Facial expressions, voice inflection and posture give clues to a person’s mood and attitude.

45. Credibility is a leader’s currency. With it, he or she is solvent; without it, he or she is bankrupt.

46. A highly credible leader under-promises and over-delivers.

47. The key to becoming a more efficient leader isn’t checking off all the items on your to-do list each day.  It’s in forming the habit of prioritizing your time so that you are accomplishing your most important goals in an efficient manner.

48. Talented performers flock to the best and brightest leaders, and these leaders in turn lift the lids off their people and uncork the latent talent inside of them.

49. Leaders don’t rise to the pinnacle of success without developing the right set of attitudes and habits; they make every day a masterpiece.

50. The best leaders are humble enough to realize their victories depend upon their people.

51. Passion creates energy and magnetically pulls co-workers and customers into a shared vision, and it is exceptionally strong when linked with a leader’s values.

52. Leadership involves the heavy burden of responsibility, and the fear of getting it wrong can paralyze a leader.

Ken Blanchard

53. Feedback is the breakfast of champions.

54. In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power.

55. People who produce good results feel good about themselves.

56. The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.

57. Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.

58. Vision comes alive when everyone sees where his or her contribution makes a difference.

Lee Lacocca

59. You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.

Marcus Buckingham

60. There’s something unique and different that makes a leader, and it’s not about creativity or courage or integrity…. A leader’s job is to rally people toward a better future.

Mark Sanborn

61. Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change.  It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business.

Marshall Goldsmith

62. To help others develop, start with yourself.

Mohandas Gandhi

63. I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.

Nelson Mandela

64. It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

Peter Drucker

65. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

66. Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.

67. No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

68. Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.

Robin Sharma

69. The deeper your relationship with others, the more effective will be your leadership. People will not follow you if they do not trust you, and before someone will lend you a hand, you must first touch their heart.

70. Mastery in work and in life is about committing yourself to being excellent in everything you do, no matter how small and no matter if no one is watching. Do you practice excellence in your most private moments?

71. The first fifteen minutes of your day should be spent planning your day. Set specific goals as to what you will accomplish. These clear goals will give you focal points on which you can govern your actions and provide your with a template you can live your day from.

Ronald Reagan

72. Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.

Sam Walton

73. Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.

Stephen Covey

74. Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.

75. In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.

76. Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

77. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Ted Turner

78. Innovate, develop, motivate, inspire, trust — be a leader.

Theodore M. Hesburgh

79. The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.

Theodore Roosevelt

80. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson

81. Power consists in one’s capacity to link his will with the purpose of others, leading by reason and a gift of cooperation.

Tom Landry

82. Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.

Tom Peters

83. Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

84. The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.


85. Be enthusiastic as a leader. You can’t light a fire with a wet match.

86. Leadership is one of the highest forms of service. It is best exercised when it freely motivates others to a decision that is really theirs — but which may never have been reached without the leader’s beneficial influence.

87. A leader’s job is to look into the future and see the organization not as it is, but as it can become.

Warren G. Bennis

88. Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.

89. Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.

90. Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.

91. Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.

92. Great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them.

93. Leaders keep their eyes on the horizon, not just on the bottom line.

94. Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard.

95. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

96. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

97. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

98. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.

99. The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.

Winston Churchill

100. The price of greatness is responsibility.

101. The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.