Tom Peters and the Revolution of Leadership

In honor of the Jack Covert Award being given to Tom Peters, I thought I would share some of Tom’s quotes.

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

Celebrate what you want to see more of.

Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.

If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.

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

The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.


And here are a couple of Tom’s big ideas that have had a huge impact on me.

1. MBWA: Managing By Walking Around

We met the president, a guy by the name of John Young, and as John told us these fascinating stories he also revealed one of the “Hewlett-Packard secrets,” which was something that he called, they called, MBWA, or Managing By Wandering Around.

And Bob and I had spent our professional careers with CEOs who sat behind layer after layer of secretaries and people, and didn’t get out of their office from one week to the next. And we were just enchanted by it.

And what is it, ’77 to now, it’s over 30 years later (now 40 years) and I’m even more in love with the term. And in love with the term, it’s the term, MBWA, Managing By Wandering Around. But what I really am in love with it as is more or less a metaphor, a metaphor for being in touch, a metaphor for not losing touch with your employees, your vendors, your customers or what have you.
– Tom Peters, Excellence: MBWA

2. Tom’s Definition of Leadership

Robert Altman won the lifetime achievement Oscar about three or four years ago, and died immediately thereafter, alas. But Mr. Altman said—and I actually wrote this down in pencil while he was doing his acceptance speech—he said, “The role of the director is to provide a space where people can become—where actors and actresses can become— more than they ever dreamed of being.” Now, you say “Hollywood,” I say “Everybody.” The same thing exactly is true with a housekeeper in a hotel, with a junior accountant in the finance department. And so, I once said that leadership is about painting portraits of excellence. Napoleon said it better than me, no surprise. He said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

I wrote previously how Tom inspired my belief that true leaders help their people discover who they really are. He included my thoughts in his presentation entitled, “The Nub of Leadership.” The term “nub” is used to describe the core, or essence, of something. It’s root word is the same as knob, which we use most commonly as “door knob.” I think that’s a great way to view Tom. He sees the nub of leadership. He sees the knob that we simply turn and pull in order to open ourselves to new opportunities.

This brings to mind an old Far Side comic by Gary Larson (see below). While high-paid management consultants and MBAs (the “gifted”) conjure complicated methodologies and solutions, Tom sees the simple solutions in front of us and asks why someone isn’t pulling the door open.

Thanks Tom.
For inspiring us to a higher form of leadership.
For reminding us that we are all people, even when we’re at work.
For revealing the simplicity of excellence.

And, most of all, for being a masterful dealer of hope.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

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2 thoughts on “Tom Peters and the Revolution of Leadership

  1. Great post, Dustin! I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never even heard of Tom Peters until just now (or never really paid attention I guess). So, of course, this post brought me on a ton of rabbit trails to learn about him. 🙂 Which of his books is your favorite? Where should I start?

  2. Cari,
    Thanks for the comment. I can see how some folks wouldn’t be familiar with Tom’s work. Coming from business consulting, his message is often around larger organizational issues, but he has a lot of good general leadership info as well. I really liked his “Tom Peters Essentials” series. Especially the books on Design, Leadership, and the one on Talent. They were individual books of content pulled from a previous book called “Re-imagine!”

    He has a new book coming out in April (The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last). I presume it will be great, but will have to wait to read it.