Leadership Is an Art

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Max DePree’s book “Leadership is an art” represents an important contribution to the area of leadership, both from a theoretical and practical point of view. The approach of the author is a humanitarian one. The focus is being made on the philosophical aspects of the theme, even if there are numerous pragmatic pieces of advice and recommendations included in the book. Leadership is a process and a concept of fundamental importance for the area of management today. It is a concept of high complexity since it implies numerous variables. It is also fundamental for the success of a business and it requires numerous skills from various areas, such as communication, management, marketing, establishing good relationships with the employees, creating strategies and implementing them, etc. since leadership and authority are no longer synonyms, it is important for those in a position of power to have the best possible know-how. There are numerous studies that have been written about this matter, and DePree’s book plays an important role among them.

Max DePree is the chairman emeritus and former CEO of Herman Miller Incorporated. It is important to mention that the company has been included in the top 25 Most Admired Companies in the United States by the “Fortune” magazine. M. DePree has received the Business Enterprise Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Leadership is one of the main themes that DePree has written about in books such as “Leadership Jazz”, “Leading without power”, “Called to serve” and last but not least, “Leadership is an art”. DePree approaches leadership both as a concept and a process, giving personal insight on the two perspectives. His book, “Leadership is an art” is addressed to people who have the necessary skills in order to become leaders, as well as to people who already find themselves in leading positions and wish to improve their skills. the presented perspective is a holistic one, with the author trying to cover all the possible aspects regarding the theme. What makes the book different from others that have been written in the same area is that the author does not attempt to provide the readers with the exact steps that one should do in order to be successful and efficient as a leader. What he actually does is try to make suggestions about how one can use his or her own potential and personal resources. The book was published in 1989 for the first time and it is structured as it follows: a forward, the introduction, seventeen chapters and a postscript. The chapters deal with the following themes: “The Millwright Died”, “What is Leadership?”( an attempt to define the complex concept and process of leadership), “Participative Premises”( the main principles of what a participative approach to the process), “Theory Fastball”, “Roving Leadership”, “Intimacy”, “Whither Capitalism?”, “Giant Tales”, “Tribal Storytelling”, “Who owns this place?”, “Communicate!” ( the fundamental importance of communication as the basis of any type of leadership process), “Pink Ice in the Urinal”, “What’s next?”, “Some thoughts for CEOs who build buildings”, “To make one vice president, mix well…”( the “ingredients” for a successful leadership approach), “Why should I weep?”, “The marks of elegance”. The author defines the theme of the book right from its beginning: "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 phrase summarizes the two main principles that are to be found throughout the book : leadership an art and the importance of the people’s own potential. Therefore, leadership is dealt with as an art, requiring various personal skills and not just the apprehension of pragmatic principles. In addition, there are no universally available rules that can be applied by a person who is in a position of power, but it depends on the personal resources and talents of each individual for him or her to be an efficient...
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