Leadership is an art by Max De Pree

Let me say that I believe that as books go, we must strive as best as we can to read the best. Having said that, brevity is king! Max DePree said in about one hundred pages, what Stephen Covey said in about three hundred! I did however wanted to give you some insings from both "Leadership is an Art" and from "The 8th Habit". I've recently been taking a class in leadership at my school and both were required reading. I was rather surprised at what I learned. Those of us who fancy ourselves leaders, or are leaders, should learn from believers (DePree) and by God's common grace learn from unbelievers (Covey who is a mormon) I debated whether to include the second book, because I didn't want to push the limits of common grace, but I also realize that I have a mature audience who will indulge me. Thanks in advance!
Who is Max DePree? His website states

"He is perhaps best known for his work as the CEO of Herman Miller, Inc. Herman Miller was founded by his father D. J. De Pree, who ran the company until the early 1960’s, when Max and his brother Hugh assumed responsibility for its leadership. During his tenure, Herman Miller became one of the most profitable Fortune 500 companies."

He was a student at Whedon College, served in Would War II, and still speaks on leadership from a Christian perspective. What stood out about his view of leadership was that it was other centered. He describes leadership as,"liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible". How that happens is the thrust of his book.
He tells the story about his dad. He owned the company first and had to go tot he funeral of his millwright. At the home, the wife of his millwright asked to read aloud some very beautiful poetry. He asked who wrote the poetry, as it turned out it was his millwright. He writes,

"[I]t is fundamental that leaders endorse a concept of persons. This begins with an understanding of the diversity of people's gifts and talents and skills....When we think about leaders and variety of gifts people bring to corporations and institutions, we see that the art of leadership lies in polishing and liberating and enabling those gifts".

I couldn't have said it better. Covey in his book has the eight habit as "find your voice and help people find theirs". We best serve the people we lead when we know who we are and know what we have to do, and help others do the same. The real point is that we must treat people as people. THEY ARE NOT THINGS! They have talents, gifts and abilities that can be harnessed to contribute to the growth of your organization, company etc.. Mr. DePree listens to his people. His company was the first to introduce the scanlon plan. In it, people contribute ideas to help the company. If it works out, the person benefits financially from their idea. He states that the results of your leadership are seen in the people.

The current writers strike is a perfect example. They are basically striking for a few pennies more in royalties from DVD sales and some compensation from internet sales and presentations. Every time I watch Grey's Anatomy on the web, there is a commercial every fifteen minutes. Since this isn't on TV, they don't' get a cut from the commercial (where TV shows get their money) Not that one side is better than the other per se, but the writers are being treated like things, not people. They give the shows ideas, it gets put on a new media like the web, and get little compensation for it. Things must change.

This doesn't mean that we don't confront, indeed we must, but if we do, we must do it in the hopes of encouraging people to do what they re capable of doing. But there are certain things that are obligated of leaders that I wanted to highlight.

He prefaces these obligations by asking us to think of leadership to mean as one who serves (found in the book of Luke) We serve our subordinates(Jesus served Peter), those above us (Peter served Christ)and the organization we are a part of(Paul labored for the church).

1. We must leave behind us assets and a legacy

Leave behind the tools, programs etc.. that are needed to do the best job.
We owe future leadership, by training people
A covenant by promising our best (more on this later)
Rationality-don't be crazy all the time
Space (freedom) for people to do their best
A very helpful question to ask is this: What is it without which this institution would not be what it is? (John Frame says for the church this would be worship, evangelism and preaching-don't quote me though!)

2.Leaders must provide and maintain momentum
We have to make sure people are working effectively towards our goal. This happens as we have a vision of what we as a group are to be.

3. Leaders are responsible for effectiveness
We do that by enabling others to reach their potential, and by encouraging roving leadership, that is giving people permission to do their best (no micromanaging here). On a personal note, two people have given me space recently to do my best.Prof. Larkin, my leadership professor, gave all of us in class extra time to turn in work. He chewed me out first, but he did it with kindness (eventually!) and he encouraged me by giving me extra time. This blog is the result of someone helping me find my voice as well. Darrin, the leader of the college group who may (or may not!) be reading this blog, saw that I couldn't go the the meetings. But he didn't cut me off. He gave me a place to put up my work and still be a part of the group. Space, it is great. I might also add that the meetings may soon be put on podcast so I can listen to them. I take full responsibility!
4. Leaders are responsible for values
This is the hardest part because poeople value different things! We must strive to set an example and guide the values of the group we are a part of.

Before I finish (I've only dealt with the first part of the book) I must highlight something Mr. DePree points out. He writes that we must be in covenant with our people. A covenant is usually an agreement between two parties (sometimes between a stronger and a weaker party) and both are obligated to respond to each other-simply put. Likewise, when we lead people, we can easily think in terms of people being obliged to us. But we must got the extra mile. We must be committed to the people we lead. As covenantal leaders, we not only expect something from people, but we are committed to them as well.

As I talked to Steve Macasill, one of the bloggers at biblicalthought.com, He mentioned that as he leads people at his job, he keeps in mind Ephesians 6:7-9

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

God is watching as we lead people. We do not threaten them, but see them as equal, having gifts and talents that can contribute to our organization. All this as done to the Glory of God, that is the kind of leadership that makes a mark. Part two will come out in a few days. Frank!


  1. I don't know if it's you or Google, but still only the first post is showing up in my Reader. I have emailed them about it.

    Hey, don't take full credit for podcasting. Someone was talking about it at the meeting. I think Jonathan N. It's not the way you want either, through a public feed or blog. It's just so you can hear, and we all can review.


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  3. It is important to understand that leadership is not always about telling people what to do. In fact, if this is your main job in that role, it ceases to be leadership. One has then entered into "babysitting." As you pointed out so well Frank, leadership is about trying to identify those GOD given gifts and talents others have, giving them a forum to exercise those gifts and talents that GOD has given them, and then encouraging and guiding them in developing those gifts and talent that GOD has given them. There are many challenges in this world and many more to come. The sooner we realize that it is going to take more than one man or one woman to do battle, the better off we will be. This is why discipleship is so important. More importantly, Christ commanded it.