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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Reprint edition (May 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385512465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385512466
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rather than offering a how-to manual on running a business, DePree, CEO of Herman Miller Inc., a manufacturer of office furniture, details, in deceptively simple but imaginative language, a humanitarian approach to leadership. The artful leader, he argues, should recognize human diversity and make full use of his or her employees' gifts. Further, he believes, a leader is responsible not just for the health of a company's financial assets, but for its ethics. Advocating management through persuasion, and the exercise of democratic participation rather than concentrated power, he favors covenantal relationships with employees that rest on shared purpose, dignity and choice. The author stresses the need for communication, but his only direct guidance concerns the need for job performance reviews and self-evaluation.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“This is a wonderful book. It captures Max’s spirit—and he’s a truly exceptional person. But it also says more about leadership in clearer, more elegant, and more convincing language than many of the much longer books that have been published on the subject.”—Peter F. Drucker

“His opus is as worthy as scripture.”—New York Times Book Review

“Like the elegant furniture his company makes, De Pree’s book provides a valuable lesson in grace, style, and the elements of success.”—Time

Leadership Is an Art is one of the best books I have ever read in my life on the subject of leadership and business management philosophy.”—Sam Walton

“Perhaps we should banish all of our management books except Max De Pree’s recent gem, Leadership Is an Art. The successful Herman Miller, Inc., chairman . . . . writes only about trust, grace, spirit, and love . . . . such concerns are the essence of organizations, small or large.”—Inc. magazine


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Customer Reviews

The book was a very easy read and very inspirational.
Street Reader
As CEO Coach, Poet and author of a leadership book that helps leaders learn how to unleash the genius of teams and corporations, I feel this book is a must read.
Paul Walker
I have shared this book with every person I have worked with who has leadership in their soul and a lifetime of learning in front of them.
James F. Mccann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on December 17, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On page one of Leadership Is an Art Max Depree writes, "The book is about the art of leadership: liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible". This is a theme that runs throughout this very wise and in every way excellent work. The following quotes provide some of the flavor of Depree's enlightened and inspiring thinking:

* The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.

* In addition to all of the ratios and goals and parameters and bottom lines, it 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.

* Understanding and accepting diversity enables us to see that each of us is needed. It also enables us to begin to think about being abandoned to the strengths of others, of admitting that we cannot know or do everything.

* Leaders don't inflict pain; they bear pain.

* First, as a Christian I believe that each person is made in the image of God. For those of us who have received the gift of leadership from the people we lead, this belief has enormous implications.

* Leaders owe people space, space in the sense of freedom. Freedom in the sense of enabling our gifts to be exercised.

* Participative management is not democratic. Having a say differs from having a vote.

* Interestingly, though in organizations like ours we need a lot of freedom, there is no room for license. Discipline is what it takes to do the job.

* One of the important things leaders need to learn is to recognize the signals of impending deterioration.
Read more ›
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Dodd on October 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Max DePree's easy-to-read classic, "Leadership is an Art," was one of the best leadership books I have read. I recommend it to brand-new leaders to help lay a solid leadership foundation upon which to build, and to seasoned leaders and managers interested in sharpening their leadership skills and refining their approach to leadership.

This book is a series of interdependent philosophical essays that are part of a holistic view of effective leadership. DePree defines the art of leadership as "liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible," and that definition is a theme that runs throughout the book. Another closely related common theme in these non-sequential yet complementary essays is that leaders must abandon themselves to the strengths of others in order to serve them and allow them to realize their full potential.

DePree put a lot of emphasis on people and fostering leadership environments in which trusting, respectful, and effective relationships flourish. His ideas and beliefs about leadership, some that I have never really read anywhere else, were refreshing and stimulating. One largely ignored insight that particularly stood out to me was that "much of a leader's performance cannot be reviewed until `after' the fact." In today's common short-term focus/instant gratification world, such insights deserve our uncommon attention.

Although originally published in 1989, DePree's thoughts, ideas, and approach to leadership are timeless. While some people may argue that DePree's writings are idealistic, I found them to be realistic given the nature of people and the frenetic pace of our hyper-competitive professional environments. Every leader owes it to him- or herself, and to those who allow themselves to be led, to read and reflect on the leadership wisdom contained in this small and powerful book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
For anyone looking to go beyond the status quo of leadership, Leadership Is An Art is required reading. Going beyond the mechanics of leading and into the ethics and philosopy of leadership, the book puts a human face on what can be a very harsh position, corporate leadership. With probing questions, the author pulls out of the reader many insights, and forces you to think through things yourself, allowing you to own the conclusions you come to. If you are in any type of leadership at all, from parents to CEO's, read this book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book has been an incredible resource for me personally in my leadership development. Every time I feel I need a "refresher" on leadership or what I'm doing in my leadership positions, I pick it up and learn something new. However, it is not for everyone. This is a philosophical, "touchy-feely" book. For someone who tends to be more of a hands-on leader who leads with caring and compassion, it is great! Others who are looking for more of a formula approach to leadership won't find it helpful. It doesn't have lists of do's or don'ts. It isn't the 7 traits that make a leader (like you could ever nail it down to any given number...).
I loved this book, and it has truly helped me in my leadership development. I recommend it to anyone that is looking for something out of the norm of leadership and management books.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Schembri on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
While relatively small in size, this book speaks volumes on how the spirit of leadership should be. Yes, it is idealistic and the anecdotes are entertaining, but I believe it also proves useful to leaders striving to understand how to lead people in a way that benefits everyone. This book aspires to articulate that leaders must transform themselves, not the people around them. He challenges leaders to look beyond what they need, and instead focus on what they owe. DePree has a self-described Participative Management perspective and it is the continuous thread throughout the book. He focuses on how to create a collective culture within the organization which is ideally made up of employee-owners who are the epitome of his affirmation of identity within an organization - not to mention a competitive edge in the marketplace. These lofty aspirations can be actualized in the organizational world by incorporating the idea of "roving leadership" and use of organizational "giants" which are people within organizations who need to be sought out and let run free . . . through the act of roving leadership. In an attempt to define leadership, DePree lays the foundation upon which he feels successful leadership should be judged. His criteria for a leader are not based on a set of interchangeable personality characteristics, but instead a compilation of what a success leader does to fulfill his responsibilities and debts to both the organization and to the people he works for. DePree gives us three specific sentences which I think are not only insightful, but sums up the book's whole philosophy, "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.Read more ›
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