Tom Peters, good leadership, or the lack of it


My aging process keeps jumping up to nip at my heels and remind me that time doesn’t just pass; time zips along well over the posted speed limit.

In a couple of my past incarnations Tom Peters was part of my daily reading. At AMR’s Committing to Leadership, we purchased parts of Tom’s “In Search of Excellence” video as jumping off points for key leadership techniques. I was especially fond of Tom’s take on training at Disney, and I loved the retail wisdom of Stew Leonard at Stew Leonard’s Dairy in Connecticut. (The other segments we used detailed the work of a woman who turned around a GM plant — she took a buyout package midway through the first year of our use of the stuff — and the turnaround at Harley Davidson. The Disney stuff became cliche, I haven’t heard much of Stew Leonard lately, GM is clearly on the ropes, but everybody still likes Harley Davidson. There was also a segment on a principal in New Hampshire who had gotten great results from management-by-wandering around; I have no idea where he is today, or how his school is doing.*)

Good business consultants should know what Peters said. I have run into a few managers who claim Peters is not au currante with their business or methods, and I know a few consultants who think they know better and know more. I don’t like to work with those people. They are often wrong about other things, too.

Mentioning Peters and his uncanny resemblance to Millard Fillmore a couple of posts ago reminded me to check to see what he’s up to recently. Hard core bloggers will not be impressed by his blog output. If you do not find something useful in the last ten posts, however, you may want to have your physician check out your cynicism level.

Peters’ theme since he left McKinsey — heck, for a good deal of time while he was there — is the search for excellent performance. Some of the organizations he’s profiled have later failed. Bob Dylan noted, “the first one now will later be last/the times, they are a-changin'” and it’s still true. We can learn a lot by focusing on the first one, now, and how and why she is not last, now (we can learn a lot by studying the later fall, too).

Peters also tends to note things that are good and potentially useful, without over analysis. Contrast Peters’ comments about wikis, here, with the comments by the cynical and overweeningly self-righteous “Constructive Curmudgeon.” Peters wouldn’t run from a title of curmudgeon, I think. But he’d make sure that he was an effective and genuinely constructive curmudgeon.

We can observe a lot just by watching, Yogi Berra said.

I lament that so many in education, teachers and administrators, don’t take a more business-like attitude in appropriate things. Often when I mention Tom Peters in education meetings, I get blank looks. Peters’ first books mention “management by wandering around,” which is a great technique. Recently I mentioned to a colleague that a principal had not visited my classroom in several weeks. She looked a little tired, and said that he’d not visited her classroom to see her teach, ever. Not in years. A quick survey of other colleagues found similar results, but also got the opinion that the only time the principal did visit a classroom, it was bad news.

How can such a leader defend and represent his team in administrators’ meetings?

Educators, go read Tom Peters.

In a Twitter exchange with Tom Peters in 2013, @Tom_Peters, I learned this principal has moved from public schools to a private school in Connecticut.  That’s not really good news, I think.

3 Responses to Tom Peters, good leadership, or the lack of it

  1. Allen says:

    There’s a wonderful satire on management consultants like Tom Peters at:

    http://cantankerousconsultant.blogspot.com/

    Check out the photo, in the right hand column, of Tom Peters!

    Like

  2. en says:

    Tom Peters is indeed a business expert, i like his works.

    PS: some of his works you can download here:
    http://www.5s5f.net/index.php?s=Tom+Peters

    Like

  3. R. Becker says:

    Been in the college history biz for [my God….] 37 years now, at several institutions in several states and worked under several departmental chairmen. The most successful of them practiced “management by walking around.” I’m not sure they read Peters or knew the term, but it was what they did. To maintain a smoothly operating department composed of many egos, some of them occasionally oversized, and many different personalities, I’ve never seen any management “style” work better.

    Like

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