I’m Tom Hardison

I help CEOs and their teams cultivate collective leadership mastery so they can sustainably scale their businesses.

I’ve always been curious about what creates thriving cultures and organizations.

I began my journey to this work with summer jobs in agriculture, construction, hospitality, and finance. I studied History and Industrial Engineering, curious about how civilizations evolve and what creates thriving cultures and organizations. I focused on high-technology companies and the people, processes, and systems that made them successful in my Industrial Engineering Master’s program.

I was eager to apply what I’d learned as I joined Hewlett Packard in 1984. HP, an icon of the technology industry, had reached $5B in revenue.

Bill and Dave, the founders, were still there, and I absorbed their way of building great teams and a creative leadership culture (the HP Way). I learned the values of:

  • a high level of achievement
  • trust and respect for every person
  • contribution
  • uncompromising integrity
  • teamwork
  • flexibility and innovation.

Leadership lessons from the tech industry

I didn’t realize I was embarking on an incredible learning journey as growth exploded for the technology industry and HP.

For 28 years I helped grow new businesses and facilitate strategic change.

Working together in cross-functional teams we

  • simplified supply chains
  • created new products
  • utilized the internet to market, sell and provide support
  • merged with Compaq
  • integrated other acquisitions
  • grew new services
  • and developed new markets.
leadership consulting for tech industries

I was stretched to learn and grow as a leader, building my own capacity and developing people around me as the company grew.

I helped facilitate HP Process of Management courses to develop a collective culture based on:

  • common purpose
  • shared vision
  • clear strategies
  • coherent action
  • regular review and reflection

These were the best years for me, as I absorbed the pragmatic practices that served HP well. 

The challenges of constant change & increasing complexity

Change was constant and complexity grew exponentially as personal computing took off in the 1980s.

Sustaining profitable growth became an increasing challenge as HP’s customers expanded beyond technologists to consumers and businesses, and the mix of hardware & software and proprietary vs. industry standards shifted. HP had grown internally with only eleven acquisitions in its first fifty years (1989), and now needed to adapt. 

Acquisitions jumped to thirty-eight in the 1990s. In 1999, as growth slowed again, the board decided to spin off the Test and Measurement businesses (HP’s initial roots) as Agilent Technologies, and focus HP on computing led by the first of four outside CEOs. Sixty-five more businesses were acquired over the next twelve years, including Compaq in 2002, the largest merger in the history of the computer industry. 

From creative to reactive leadership culture

The integration of so many products, technologies, people, and cultures had a huge impact to the “HP Way” that I and so many had grown to know, love and thrive within.

So much change so fast stretched everyone to the max.

We were all challenged by the industry evolution, acquisitions, and new strategy dictates from four outside CEOs in twelve years. It was a real-world case study on what works and what doesn’t.

The once cohesive creative culture became increasingly reactive, and HP’s revenue peaked at $127B in 2011. 

In hindsight, I was personally challenged through all these changes in the later years. I too had become increasingly reactive as the culture around me shifted.

I was focusing more on complying, protecting, and controlling than creating better outcomes.

Cultivating Collective Leadership Mastery

Although I built a tremendous skill set through my time at HP, I wanted to learn what I couldn’t see about my own leadership, and I chose to leave in 2012. I wasn’t growing my capacity fast enough to keep up with the rate of change around me.

After I left, I explored how I went from thriving to striving as a leader at HP and where I could have handled things better.

I gleaned many lessons that help me better understand my own leadership strengths and challenges.

I rekindled my learning journey through the study of executive and team coaching, leadership development, and Aikido.

I developed greater presence, resilience, and capacity to create with challenging circumstances.

Being a leader at HP was a tremendous opportunity to experience the challenges of growth and change. 

The growth I experienced there and in the following years studying leadership instilled a fire in me to help organizations cultivate collective leadership mastery to face and overcome the hurdles they encounter.