Lessons in Leadership

Attributes of Those Who “Made” the 10th Grade History Textbook

Back in November 1999 I had the opportunity to experience Tom Peters via live feed in the Lessons in Leadership series. The slate of speakers was impressive, but aside from the absolutely entertaining interaction of Richard Branson, Steve Case and Ted Turner, my “take-away” was more of the insights of Tom Peters.

Here are a few of my scribble notes that made a difference.

“Work worth paying for”
The ultimate test for any individual, consultant, independent contractor, business unit – the only way out – or in – is to create value – and “value” is in the eyes of the customer!

“Good” is not good enough. Everyone is getting “good”. “Good” becomes mediocre when we raise the bar and that is the price of admission. Be “great” or go home! It’s the “wow” factor that makes the difference.

“Reward excellent failures, punish mediocre successes!”
If my notes are accurate this quote was attributed to Phil Daniels. It had something to do with being in the “hits” business – which, whether we like it or not – we are all in today.

“Distinct or extinct!”
Competitive advantage in the age of the “wow factor”. How on earth do you cut through the ‘noise’ of ever increasing great performance by everyone? Be great! Re-invent, or go away!

“Rock stars of the age of talent”
More on being in the “hits” business, and how about the notion of “branding” you. Took me a while to ‘get’ it but – how do I ‘brand’ me? That is the ticket!

… and my favorite … my ultimate take-away … worth the price of admission …

“Be a player!”
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but three little words made all of the difference for me. “Be a player.” Wow! Yes I must be … a player …

And if you think about it, who did you read about in your history textbook, and who are our children reading about? Are there any dull and boring characters who followed the rules and complied and didn’t make any waves or do anything out of character or significant? Of course not. Here are Tom Peters’ attributes of those who “made” the 10th grade history textbook – and it is a rather comprehensive and definitive list of attributes for what it takes … to be a player.

Determined to make a difference.
Risk seekers.(Irrational about their life’s “project.”)
Ahead of their time. / Paradigm Busters!
Impatient. (But, paradoxically, stay the course.)
Action obsessed. (Mantra: Ready. Fire! Aim.)
Made l-o-t-s of people mad!
Creative. / Quirky. / Peculiar.
Rebels. / In the establishment’s face. / Flouted the chain of command.
Irreverent. / Disrespectful.
Masters of Improv. / Thrive on Chaos. (e-x-p-l-o-i-t chaos!)
Forgiveness (asking for after the fact) beats Permission (asking for before the fact).
Bone Honest!
“Tuned into” followers needs and aspirations.
Damned good at what they do!