Leadership Credo

Each person should be their own end, and not used by another as a means to an end.

We should each take responsibility for our own needs, actions, and growth.

We should increase both our ability to contribute and our ability to enjoy our surroundings.

Tom on Leadership (ToL) is dedicated to improving business practices.  This is because business is:

  • A place where humans spend an enormous amount of time — for some of us, more time than we may spend with our families
  • A place where we can either get our physical needs met through the rewards of our labor, or a place where we may feel unappreciated and mistreated — and the quality of our non-working lives can be drastically helped or harmed by our work environment
  • A place where humans can learn to create ways work together, to be happy and also challenged, to contribute at their maximum potential — and to grow that potential
  • A place where we create the material and informational prerequisites for safety and health, that in turn underpin all efforts to create comfort, or belonging, or meaning, or art, or self-actualization

An hour of productivity lost — due to workplace unhappiness, due to simple mis-communication, due to any preventable error — is just as much of a loss to humanity as the loss of a head of lettuce that rots instead of making it to market on time to nourish someone.

To the extent humanity becomes better at creating more happy workplaces and fewer miserable workplaces, we will be able to create non-work environments using those same new tools and new insights.

Today too many businesses are run indistinguishably from how they might have been run 100 or 1,000 years ago. Too many people are unproductive or unhappy or both, and they often don’t know how not to be.

However there are concepts and practices now being created that can transform humanity. Some might call this “eudaimonism in the workplace.”

Why do I want people to be happy?

Whatever the purpose is for existing, it probably involves things we do with each other and things we do inside our own heads. To the extent we are distracted by pain and frustration, by a lack of shoes or a lack of nutrients — things that a properly functioning economy will provide — those distractions prevent us from each discovering our own purpose and pursuing it.

I have a bone-deep dislike of waste and inefficiency.

Regardless of whether happiness is its own purpose, or a side effect of effectively pursuing some other purpose, almost doesn’t matter.

To the extent we can treat each other better in the workplace, we will inevitably transfer those techniques and skills to the rest of our lives. I can’t count how often I’ve taught business people a skill or technique or mental model for listening, only to have people take those home and try them with their kids and spouse, and suddenly improve their communication and intimacy with their family.

To the extent a business can improve its human practices, it makes more money — and that money can be used in part to pay for the research and training needed to improve the practices. Not many families can afford (or will choose to pay for) this sort of training.  When the workplace pays for it, it’s paid for, and the worker learns it and gets to apply it all throughout her or his life.

So when we can have this crucial new technology or process of human relations be developed — and paid for — out of the excess wealth freed up by the improvement, the rest of our rich and complex lives get to follow along for free, enjoying the benefit with little or no additional cost.

There is a large lump of phenomena involving how we humans treat each other — and ourselves — badly, and in ways that harm our economic output. The economics are hardly the most important part of that suffering, however they are the key to mobilizing and organizing the effort needed for humanity to learn how to treat each other better.

I want humans to be smarter, wiser, nicer, more effective, clearer, more accountable, more aware, and better dancers.

I want humans to be more automated where it makes sense to be more automated, and less automated where that makes sense.

I’m particularly interested in thought leaders who create improvements in any aspect of work, because each improvement creates wealth that can be shared to all stakeholders. It doesn’t have to be a breakthrough in human systems — it can be a breakthrough in logistics, or a better paper clip.

To the extent we are all searching for meaning, we are at risk when we have too many distractions. We each have limited capacity to how much we can effectively worry about, and one reason why a poor third world mother may fail to get a free inoculation for a child is because her capacity has been filled by worries about food, fuel, safety, and other more pressing issues.

Therefore, to the extent we can — through increases in wealth — free ourselves and each other from safety concerns, from bodily health and nutrition concerns, from uncertainty, to that extent we make it more possible for each of us to get closer to self fulfillment and self actualization.

This is the Leadership Credo.