Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leadership Is an Art

by Max DePree

The author, former CEO and chairman of the board of directors at furniture maker Herman Miller, shares his viewpoint on leadership.  It’s an idealistic account of what companies can be when leaders are open and understanding.  One of his main ideas is that leaders owe a great deal to the companies they lead: they need to provide a statement of values, space for employees to grow, a vision for present and future, momentum (“a debt to the future”), and effectiveness, among other things.

De Pree defines effectiveness as “doing the right thing” as opposed to just doing the thing right.  He also sets a high premium on Roving Leadership (the ability of others to lead temporarily when their unique talents call for it), and participative management (encouraging others to have a say, fostering a culture of respect for diversity of talents, the importance of covenants – an understanding that work has value and meaning – as opposed to impersonal contracts).  In sum, he rejects “the dry rules of business school” and pushes liberation over control, ritual and storytelling, trust over hierarchy, people over structures, civility over rules, and wisdom over manuals.  It’s an impressive philosophy, and I’m astonished to see it so closely adhere to that of my current workplace (I was asked to read this for work).  Knowing what the alternative could be makes me even more gratified and amazed that such places do exist. 

three stars

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