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On Monday, I finished the book Leadership is an Art by Max DePree.

Max was the CEO of Hermann Miller from 1961 to 1990.  They make (to borrow a phrase from Ben) some "way cool" furniture.  🙂  You can also find the De Pree Leadership Center on the web.

The main point of the book?  "Leadership is much more than cold science.  It is the art of relating to people — valuing them, serving them, treating them fairly, freeing them up to utilize their strengths, and relying on them."

There are many great thoughts in this book.  Honestly, putting these ideas in a cold bullet-list feels like I’m doing Max & his book injustice.  Max appears to be all about leadership as truly valuing people…valuing them individually…valuing them sincerely…loving people as your neighbor in a corporate/organizational context.  Though the list doesn’t do the heart of the book justice, I wanted to seed you with some ideas nonetheless.  These ideas included…

  • The 3 responsibilities of a leader:
    • First = Define reality
    • Middle = Serve the team
    • Last = Say "Thank you"
  • Leaders owe their organizations many debts:
    • These include the leadership-debts of clear values, identifying and developing future leadership, maturity, rationality, a culture of civility, freedom for people to grow & develop, positive momentum, and focusing on what’s most important
  • Personal relationships count more than organizational structure
  • The needs of the team are best met by meeting the needs of the individuals.  These include the rights to:
    • Be needed — (Can I use my gifts?)
    • Be involved — (From input, to implementation, to rewards)
    • Have a covenantal relationship — (Abandon yourselves to the skills & needs of others)
    • Understand — (To know the mission, career path, competition, responsibilities)
    • Affect one’s destiny — (Thru evaluation, promotion, and transfer)
    • Be accountable — (To share in the problems and risk)
    • Appeal — (Offer a non-threatening avenue)
    • Make a commitment — (Is this a place that will let me do my best?)
  • Good communication both educates people and liberates them to become what they were intended to be
  • Leaders are responsible for the detection and addressing of "entropy" — seeing the signs of deterioration in an organization
    • The signs of entropy include superficiality, tension, no time for celebrations, leaders controlling rather than liberating people, customers become "impositions" rather than opportunities to serve, relying on structures instead of people

Great stuff.  The ideas from Max’s book that have my mind spinning right now?

  • The chapter = "What’s next?"
  • The section = The questions Max asks his senior management team during performance reviews (which he says, done well, help people reach their human potential)

Keep learning!  Leaders are either continually learning or stagnating.