Questions for the Author of "Rules of Thumb"

An interview with witty and wise author Alan M. Webber on his new book, “Rules of Thumb:  52 Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Y
June 17, 2009

An interview with witty and wise author Alan M. Webber on his new book, “Rules of Thumb:  52 Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self”.

Allow me to get this off my chest right off the bat.  I have had a major intellectual crush on Alan M. Webber ever since he wrote a gem of a book called “Going Global,” which was light years ahead of its time on the subject of globalization (published a decade earlier than Thomas Friedman’s classic bestselling book “The World Is Flat”).  Ever since then, I have both admired and deeply respected Alan’s work from afar.  Considered one of the brightest minds, you’ll understand why after you read his interview.

For those of you who are hearing about Alan for the first time, he is former editor and co-founder of Fast Company Magazine, former editorial director and managing editor of the Harvard Business Review, a columnist and author of a new book, “Rules of Thumb:  52 Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self.” It is hands down one of the best and wisest business books I have ever read.  Alan doesn’t believe in spin for the sake of spin to get the word out on his book.  If he did, it would have hit the best-seller list overnight.  Instead, he relies on folks like me to tell the truth and slowly put the good word in.  That said, if I had a bottomless piggybank, I would gift this book to everyone I know so they could reflect on it and become a better and wiser person.  It’s a must-read.

I set out to ask Alan critical questions relating to how his book came about.  Here’s our interview:

Question:  Why did you write “Rules of Thumb”?

 I wrote “Rules of Thumb” after giving a speech to a CEO and his executive team on leadership. At the end of the speech, the CEO asked his team to name one person in America with "moral leadership" — the kind of person you'd follow based on their character and life-view. The entire room was silent for about 5 minutes. No one could think of a single name — not in business, government, or organized religion. When I got home from that, I realized that we all need to be moral leaders, and that we need to devise a way to create a conversation about the kind of future we want to create together. “Rules of Thumb” is my invitation to that conversation.

Question:  Who did you write it for?

Webber: I wrote it for my children, of course, and also for anyone who is looking to learn, to teach, to grow, and to perform as a leader and a person during this time of enormous uncertainty and transition.

Question:  What's the gist of it?

Webber: I suppose the gist of it is that we all need to pay attention to the new rules of work and life; that the world is changing and we are all responsible for how it changes — and to guide our own lives, our companies, our families, and our communities in a direction that makes sense, that works, that has positive results, and that is sustainable.

Question:  What will readers learn from reading the book?

Webber: Readers will learn how I see the world; how to begin to see the world for themselves with fresh eyes; some things about leadership, creativity, innovation, that could help them as they find their own way in the world.

Question:  If there is one rule of thumb you had to live by, what would it be and why?

Webber: Rule #52, the last one I wrote tells us all to pay attention — there are teachers everywhere. If we pay attention to what we're doing, to who we're meeting, to what is actually going on around us, we'll all make better choices, have a greater awareness of what matters, and be more alive to the possibilities in life and in work.

Question:  According to your book and your own life experience, what is the recipe (key ingredients) to becoming a great leader?

Webber: Being an active listener; a passionate and involved person; a person with high standards and moral clarity; being focused on things that really matter; caring about more than just yourself.

Question:  How will your book change our world for the better?

Webber: Ah, good question! By telling the truth, I hope!

Question:  Where can people go to learn more about “Rules of Thumb”?


Thank you, Alan, for sharing your wisdom.  Now, to all of you:  What’s the rule of thumb that you live by? Share yours and add to the conversation.??

About the Author:  Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder of  She also is the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog, all highly regarded for their global small business coverage.