Category: Leadership

Authors Q&A

Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence is out and we are so excited to share it with you. Curious what the authors, Tom Peters and Nancye Green, were thinking when they wrote/designed it? They answered a few questions for just that reason:

Do you believe Extreme Humanism is relevant for every field?
Passionately. As designers, for example, we are taught to care about people and what matters to them when we are trying to solve a design problem. Are our products useful? Our instructions helpful? Do they satisfy a real need? Do they delight? In short, respect each person’s needs and differences. At the core, that is “humanism.”

Why did you create Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence?
I’ve been talking and writing about Extreme Humanism, Excellence, and Business Excellence for a long time now. But this book is “not my show.” This book spotlights the voices of others—from every discipline or industry or even pulpit—who have inspired me, and who I hope will inspire you too. And by “inspire” I mean…inspire you to act and act now.

How did you get involved in this book?
I’m a designer who founded a movement called un/teaching, which is meant to bring thought leaders together to contribute to a more humane and just world, to learn compassion, and unlearn old patterns. Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence was a natural fit for my passions.

How does the message differ from Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism?
The message—at its core—is the same. Put people first! Be a stellar community member. Create the best, not the cheapest. What I've changed is the message delivery. Instead of reading my arguments (900 pages in Liberation Management), Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence is designed for the reader to pick up, to read a quote or two or three, and to begin to digest it and test its relevance.

How does art overlap with business?
Design can build value, shape markets, as well as educate, engage, and inspire. As a designer I use a process fueled by empathy and compassion, aimed at serving people and society. I believe it takes all of us using our unique talents and insights to build a more humane world, where business has a critical role in serving the greater good.

How do the arguments here hold up as the nature of work changes radically, as AI challenges the legitimacy of almost all of our jobs?
"Hold up"? Put simply, these messages are far more important than before. As tech shortcuts arrive by the nanosecond, how do we keep our humanity—and even broaden it? I think the approaches to Extreme Humanism described here help us create exquisite products, motivate one and all to constantly grow, and make us all utterly determined to "make the world a little bit better." It is the only path for us and our communities that matters.

Find out more about the Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence and un/teaching.

Kirkus Review

We're excited to share Kirkus's review of Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence:


By Tom Peters and Nancye Green
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2022

A guide offers a collection of business insights in an attractively designed package.

Business guru Peters’ book combines his thoughts—and the words of many others he quotes throughout the volume—with the design work of Nancye Green to create a motivational objet d’art that is both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking. The volume, which is a small square rather than the standard rectangular shape found on most bookshelves, consists of 13 thematic sections. With headings including “Execution: The ‘Last 95 Percent,’ ” “Long-Term Investors Prosper,” “Sustainability: The Right Things to Do. The Profitable Thing to Do,” and “Leadership: You Must Care,” the work addresses familiar topics in business literature, and does so concisely, with just a handful of words on each page. From the start, Peters urges readers to think about business as having a social and community purpose as much as a financial role to fulfill (“Business as a community and as a contributor to communities has an obligation to create products and services which inspire—and which aim to make the world a bit better”). The book backs a holistic approach to business, with liberal arts graduates in key roles, leaders who advocate for their staffs, and a focus on long-term results over short-term financials. Most of the Peters-written content, he explains in the introduction, is “extracted” from his work Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism (2021). His new volume also includes many quotations from journalists, business executives, and thought leaders—including Larry Bossidy (former CEO of Honeywell International), Anita Roddick (founder of the British version of the Body Shop), entrepreneur Richard Branson, and author Marcus Buckingham—which Peters expands on.

The book’s design is inviting and engaging, even though the color palette is limited to grayscale, with the typography enhancing and reinforcing the work’s messages. The generous font size makes for easy reading, as does the inclusion of a significant amount of white space on most of the pages. This is not an information-heavy tome but a convenient and attractive gift book for those who are already familiar with Peters’ writings and want a beautiful object for display or an easy-to-grab collection of pithy and often insightful quotes. A few, like “WTTMS(ASTMSUTF)W: Whoever Tries The Most Stuff (And Screws The Most Stuff Up The Fastest) Wins” and “Fail. Forward. Fast.” (both attributed to “High-tech executive, Philadelphia, at one of Peters’ speeches”), seem more like filler than valuable material. Some pages are more interactive, presenting readers with a series of questions, but most simply offer a short excerpt from another work; citations are given for all quotes. The thematic sections provide the book’s structure, and although they are generally discrete, they do build on one another. Readers who are in search of concrete and actionable lessons in leadership and management should turn to Peters’ more traditional books or those by other business thought leaders for deeper explorations of how to develop the skills and implement the ideas discussed in this volume. But for Peters fans who are already acquainted with his work and appreciate easy access to a selection of conceptual points in a well-designed package, the work is a present that will be appreciated.

A gift book approach to leadership lessons that delivers highlights elegantly.

Coming November 1st

Tom's new book, Tom Peters' Compact Guide to Excellence, will be published November 1st! Tom partnered with iconic designer Nancye Green of Donovan/Green to create this leadership guidebook. They packed the strikingly designed little book with exhilarating quotes that will urge you to recognize what truly matters at work.

We look for people that are warm and caring and actually altruistic. We look for people who have a fun-loving attitude."

Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus, Southwest Airlines

Being aware of yourself and how you affect everyone around you is what distinguishes a superior leader."

Cindy Miller, with Edie Seashore, in Sally Helgesen’s “Masters of the Breakthrough Moment,” strategy + business

Better before cheaper. Revenue before cost. There are no other rules."

Michael E. Raynor and Mumtaz Ahmed, The Three Rules: How Exceptional Companies Think

These are just a couple of quotes from the guidebook. Over the decades, Tom has gathered these gems of wisdom from those down in the trenches creating extraordinary places to work. The insights you’ll find in Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence will move you to action, to vigorously and passionately support our communities, provide products and services that stun your clientele with their excellence and verve, and serve our ailing planet. It’s not just the best path forward, it’s the path that can engender purpose and pride in all of us who perform the work.

Nancye designed the book for you, the reader, keeping in mind the most accessible and captivating way to absorb the wisdom. This book is meant to be picked up when you're in need of inspiration. It provides you a framework for how to think about the way you act, the way you live, the way you govern your relationships with others.

We are all in need of some inspiration from time to time. Take this guidebook with you wherever you need to be reminded of excellence.

Pre-Order Now

The Future of Leadership

"It was pure, raw, unmitigated fun." This is how Tom described his recent conversation with Tanveer Naseer and Jim Kouzes.

Tanveer interviewed Tom and Jim, who have known and respected one another since working together at Tom's consulting company in the '80s and '90s. Jim became a thought leader and educator, coauthoring The Leadership Challenge. Tanveer guides them through a discussion of the challenges leaders are facing today, including whether leaders should embrace hybrid work opportunities and the importance of extreme empathy.

This fun conversation even dips into the future of work and we hope you'll laugh as much as Tom, Jim, and Tanveer did.

Listen Now!


Interview with Johann Verheem of Parsons School of Design

On January 31st, 2022 Tom joined Professor Johann Verheem and the Strategic Design for Global Leadership masters students at Parsons School of Design. This is a very unique business graduate program that believes it exemplifies Tom's saying: "Hard is Soft. Soft is Hard." The small cohort says they are a co-created course by diverse students with various backgrounds and different opinions.

Tom says, "My life goal—and I'm going to stay healthy so I can make a couple more steps—is to humanize professional education. And my 3 particular targets—who are my worst-of-the-worst list—are MBAs, Med schools and engineering schools." Being able to speak with these students who are getting a less traditional, more humanized business degree brings Tom immense joy.

Watch the great discussion between Tom and this class below.

Course 6: Leadership with Urgency–OUT NOW!

Tom's final course is now out! WOW.

His series, Excellence: Now More Than Ever, The Excellence Dividend Online Experience, consists of six courses and offers a total of 99 Steps to Excellence, each followed by specific actions you can take NOW. The goal of this series is simple: to offer you and your organization a helping hand in implementing the products of decades of Tom’s research.

Course 6 is the culmination of Tom's course series. Leadership with Urgency will invite you to take a very close look at your daily leadership habits and start to make some immediate changes to improve how you're getting things done. They may sound simple, but as you'll read below, they're not exactly easy. Nothing worthwhile is, right?

Course 6: Leadership with Urgency

[Below is what Tom has written to introduce this course, beginning with a quote from Dov Frohman.]

Avoid busy-ness, free up your time, stay focused on what really matters. Let me put it bluntly: every leader should routinely keep a substantial portion of his or her time—I would say as much as 50 percent—unscheduled. . . .Only when you have substantial ‘slop’ in your schedule—unscheduled time—will you have the space to reflect on what you are doing, learn from experience, and recover from your inevitable mistakes. . . . It takes enormous effort on the part of the leader to keep free time for the truly important things.” Dov Frohman, Leadership the Hard Way

High-tech superstar Dov Frohman lays down an outrageous law: 50 percent UNSCHEDULED TIME.

Frankly, I don’t think many of us could pull this off—could even pull off 25 percent free time. Nonetheless, Frohman’s credentials from Intel and from reshaping Israel’s high-tech sector are impeccable. My goal is to have you reflect on the likes of Frohman’s outrageous command. I don’t think I could do it—but upon personal reflection I think he is absolutely positively on the money.


How many of us have had a boss who is late to four out of every five meetings because he’s overscheduled? Well, count me as one who’s experienced it—and lost all respect for the boss as a result thereof. The late boss is disrespectful (and, I’d bet, an awful decision-maker). You can’t do “frenzy” and “thoughtful” at the same time. I’d bet his decision-making is as half-assed as his on-time record.

The goal of this course is to lay down some formidable leadership challenges. It’s meant to get you thinking and trying several of these ideas out. I’m going to push you, for instance, on your communication skills. I’m going to tell you that each of the 15 people who report to you is very different from the other 14. Which means you need 15 dramatically different communication strategies in order to move forward effectively—every top football coach knows that, and so does every superior third-grade teacher, but damn few bosses seem to get it. They blame a miscommunication on the recipient—when in fact it is the boss’s fault 100 percent of the time!

Twenty challenges are forthcoming. I hope they help you down the path to leadership excellence.

Good luck.

Register for Course 6: Leadership with Urgency today.

Course 5: Leadership Excellence – OUT NOW!

Tom has done it again! Leadership Excellence is his second to last course and it provides ready-to-use strategies for every leader.

Tom says, "This is simply a series of tools guaranteed to make you a more effective leader. Guaranteed because I have seen each one work a jillion times." With Tom's leadership toolbox you can try a few tools today, then some more next week. Pick a half dozen of the tools on offer. Or try them all. You’ll have to stick with them, adapt them to your situation, and march on.

Read on to learn more about Course 5: Leadership Excellence and Tom's full course series, Excellence: Now More Than Ever.

Course Series

Excellence: Now More Than Ever, The Excellence Dividend Online Experience consists of six courses and offers a total of 99 Steps to Excellence, each followed by specific actions you can take NOW. The goal of this series is simple: to offer you and your organization—a 2-person accountancy, a 14-person training department, a 23-person non-profit staff, or a division of a giant company—a helping hand in implementing the products of decades of Tom’s research.

Course 5: Leadership Excellence

[Below is what Tom has written to introduce this course.]

The U.S. Navy paid my way through college. I paid them back with four years of service. The first 18 months were in Vietnam, where I was a Navy combat engineer (Seabee). I had two tours in Vietnam, two commanding officers (COs). I call them “Captain Day” and “Captain Night.” Together they taught me more about leadership—good and bad—than I could imagine. And the lessons stuck.

Captain Day, my first deployment boss, loved his sailors—not unlike how Dwight Eisenhower loved his Army troops and Herb Kelleher loved his team at Southwest Airlines (more on that coming up). He was a no-nonsense get-the-job-done-on-time guy, but he clearly gave a damn—A BIG DAMN—about each and every one of us. He also avoided the command tent and spent most of his day in the field. Ten years after Vietnam I learned what to call his style: MBWA (Managing By Wandering Around)—a Hewlett-Packard invention.

Deployment No. 2 brought “Captain Night.” He had a different style of “leadership” entirely. It’s often called “by the book.” He was a stickler for formalities. In fact, I sometimes thought he was more interested in typo-free reports of jobs not yet done than hell-and-highwater-completed construction with, perhaps, sketchy documentation. I had a crappy time, as did virtually all of us junior officers, and our track record in getting things done for our customers was less than sterling. For me, the quintessential event came when I was summoned to the CO’s office and lectured on the difference between “tangible” and “palpable” in a report I’d prepared that was going up the chain of command—to this day, over 50 years later, I have no idea what the difference is between the two words. But I damn well know the difference between “Day” and “Night”—and the yawning gap between leadership that fosters growth and pride-in-accomplishment versus leadership that does the opposite.

I went from Vietnam to the Pentagon, and got another “degree” in leadership—this time leadership in big bureaucracies. Some of my bosses could move mountains, some could not.

I don’t like fancy stuff, so I’ve boiled my leadership learning in this course to 24 tools. No theory, just 24 leadership tools that work. My goal, then, is to give you a big box of “stuff”—practical ideas you can apply as soon as you finish watching and reading.


Register for Course 5: Leadership Excellence today.



8.27.2018 revised 7.9.2021

Tom wants to remind us of the importance of Hard is Soft. Soft is Hard. Here's what he says:

(“Hard [plans, numbers, org charts] is soft [abstract, readily manipulable]. Soft [people, relationships, culture] is hard [bedrock, lasting].)”

My Life in Six Words

The terms ‘hard facts’ and ‘the soft stuff’ used in business imply that data are somehow real and strong while emotions are weak and less important.”George Kohlrieser, Hostage at the Table: How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict, Influence Others, and Raise Performance

My life in six words: Hard is soft. Soft is hard.

Hard (numbers/plans/org charts) is soft: Plans are often fantasies; organizational charts have little to do with the way the organization actually works; and numbers are readily manipulated. Case in point: “quants” and ratings-agency staffers cleverly packaged and evaluated “derivatives” of valueless mortgages, thus spurring the multi-trillion dollar financial crash of 2007–2008 and beyond.

Soft (people/relationships/culture) is hard: The best “people practices” (caring, training, acknowledging) create the most wholesome, community-minded organizations—and win in the marketplace as well. Effective people practices, design that inspires, customers who are enthralled, vendors who bend over backwards to assist us are all byproducts of a supportive culture nurtured one day at a time.

This was the heart of In Search of Excellence. This is the heart of my work today. This has been the heart of every one of my books. “Hard is soft/soft is hard” has been taken up by some, but I’m afraid it’s not the norm. And as I write, we are beginning to emerge from the grip of COVID-19 and deep social and political unrest. Humane and thoughtful behavior is in fact more important than ever. Far more important!

Google Gets a [B-I-G] [SOFT] Surprise

Project Oxygen [data from founding in 1998 to 2013] shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas. Those traits sounds more like what gets as an English or theater major than as a programmer. …

“Project Aristotle [2017] further supports the importance of soft skills even in high-tech environments. Project Aristotle analyzes data on inventive and productive teams,. Google takes pride in it’s A-teams, assembled with top scientists, each with the most specialized knowledge and able to throw down one cutting-edge idea after another. Its data analysis revealed, however, that the company’s most important and productive ideas come from B-teams comprised of employees that don’t always have to be the smartest people in the room. Project Aristotle shows that that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. …

“[Tech] billionaire venture capitalist and ‘Shark Tank’ TV personality Mark Cuban looks for philosophy majors when he’s investing in sharks most likely to succeed.”Source: Valerie Strauss, “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees—and what it means for today’s students” (Washington Post)

Bonus: All Hail the Liberal Arts

AT GRADUATION: Business and professional degree holders in general [MBAs, engineers, lawyers, etc.] have higher interview and hire rates, and higher starting salaries, than new liberal arts grads.

YEAR 20: Liberal arts grads have risen farther than their biz-professional degree holder peers. At one giant tech firm, 43 percent of liberal arts grads had made it to upper-middle management compared to 32 percent of engineering grads. At one giant financial services firm, 60 percent of the worst managers, according to company evaluations, had MBAs, while 60 percent of the best had only BAs.

Source: Henry Mintzberg, Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development, 

More/Sample among these:

The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World, by Scott Hartley

You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education, by George Anders

Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm, by Christian Madsbjerg

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein



I believe the business world is at a crossroads, where hard-edged people are dominating the narrative and discussion. … The battle for attention and money boiling inside most companies and among most managers is that between the hard and soft edges. …

“Far too many companies invest too little time and money in their soft-edge excellence. … The this mistake has three main reasons:

    “1. The hard edge is easier to quantify. …
    “2. Successful hard-edge investment provides a faster return on investment. …
    “3. CEOs, CFOs, chief operating officers, boards of directors, and shareholders speak the language of finance. …

“Here's the case for investing time and money in your company’s soft edge:

    “1. Soft-edge strength leads to greater brand recognition, higher profit margins, … [It] is the ticket out of Commodityville.
    “2. Companies strong in the soft edge are better prepared to survive a big strategic mistake or cataclysmic disruption …
    “3. Hard-edge strength provides a fleeting advantage. [It] is easier to clone than the soft edge."

1982-2021: In Search of Excellence/Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism

Hard is soft. Soft is hard.

“Hard [plans, numbers, org charts] is soft.

“Soft [people, relationships, culture] is hard."

Q.E.D. (IMHO.)



David Ogilvy wrote in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising, that few copywriters are ambitious. “‘Raise your sights!’ I exhort them. ‘Blaze new trails! Hit the ball out of the park!! Compete with the immortals!!!”

That sends chills down my spine. Chills of delight.

This set of quotes is about looking for magic, stretching beyond comprehension. How about adopting this to your bailiwick? And not just into ads or new products. These sentiments apply to a new training course or business process as much as they do to a new product or service offering.

Kevin Roberts’ Credo:

1. Ready. Fire! Aim.
2. If it ain’t broke ... break it!
3. Hire crazies.
4. Ask dumb questions.
5. Pursue failure.
6. Lead, follow ... or get out of the way!
7. Spread confusion.
8. Ditch your office.
9. Read odd stuff.
10. Avoid moderation!"

(Mr. Roberts was most recently CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. His book Lovemarks is on my “best business books ever” short list.)

INSANELY GREAT” Steve Jobs’ new product standard

RADICALLY THRILLING” BMW, ad for a new model

ASTONISH ME” Sergei Diaghley, to a lead dancer

'What should I make?' Yokoi asked. Yamauchi said, 'Something great.'" David Sheff about former president of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, in his book, Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World

Every project we undertake starts with the same question: ‘How can we do what has never been done before?’” Stuart Hornery, in "The Company Without Limits" Fast Company by Polly LaBarre

Let us create such a building that future generations will take us for lunatics.” The church hierarchs at Seville

You can’t behave in a calm, rational manner. You’ve got to be out there on the lunatic fringe.” Jack Welch, former chairman of GE, in “'Black Belts' Roam GE Plants To Weed Out Snafus, Cut Costs” Wall Street Journal by William M. Carley

We are crazy. We should only do something when people say it is ‘crazy.’ If people say something is ‘good,’ it means someone else is already doing it.” Hajime Mitarai, former CEO, Canon, in "Crazy is Praise for Us" Forbes by Gale Eisenstodt

We all agree your theory is crazy. The question, which divides us, is whether it is crazy enough...” Niels Bohr, to Wolfgang Pauli

There’s no use trying,’ said Alice. ‘One cannot believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

To hell with ‘well behaved’ … Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? ‘Keep her,’ I replied. … The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me.” Anna Quindlen, Newsweek

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman: The Revolutionists' Handbook.

The Moral Responsibility of Enterprise: Credo 2021

Most of us spend the best parts of our waking hours in a business with 1 to 100,001 fellow employees. Business, therefore, is not "part of the community." Business is the community. Hence, the "first order of business" for any enterprise is its ongoing moral responsibility to all of those who make its success possible: employees, in terms of their personal growth, and social equity as regards gender and race. This also includes the communities in which its employees lives as well as the larger communities where the enterprise does business: city, state, country, planet.

And as to output—what business delivers to its employees, its communities, and its customers—it holds a sacred obligation to create products and services that, as Jony Ive (Apple's former design leader), says, "serve humanity first."

Regarding traditional business goals, such as unwavering commitment to excellence and to people and community are the only repeatedly proven long-term drivers of exceptional growth and profitability. Looking down the road, developing the full potential of its people and providing products and services that inspire offer the best chance we have to continue to provide enlightened and humane contributions that the looming artificial intelligence tsunami cannot take away from us.