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Leadership Is an Art

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  3,504 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
LEADERSHIP IS AN ART has long been a must-read not only within the business community but also in professions ranging from academia to medical practices, to the political arena. First published in 1989, the book has sold more than 800,000 copies in hardcover and paperback. This revised edition brings Max De Pree’s timeless words and practical philosophy to a new generation ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published May 18th 2004 by Crown Business (first published February 1st 1987)
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Jan 03, 2012 Amanda rated it it was ok
Shelves: business-books
This book came to me highly recommended and I really wanted to like it. A leadership book based on treating people like people? Sounds good.

Unfortunately, I found the meandering writing style frustrating and barely made it half way through. I would have preferred a clearer structure and more cleanly delineated concepts. Each chapter bled into another, circling around the same points. Really, it all does boil down to "be nice to other people" but really, who needs a book to tell you that?
Omar Halabieh
Aug 13, 2011 Omar Halabieh rated it really liked it
I recently finished reading Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree. As Max best puts it: "This book is about the art of leadership: liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible. It is not a book of facts or history. Though I like to tell stories, the book is not filled with anecdotes. Since it deals more with ideas and beliefs and relationships, it has to do with the "why" of institutional and corporate life rather than the "how"..Those results, how ...more
Feb 10, 2013 Kristin rated it did not like it
Shelves: leadership
This book was mentioned by my pastor in a sermon. The author, former CEO of Hermann Miller, Max De Pree, describes it as a series of essays. Specifically as a "compendium of ideas about organizational leadership". Indeed, it is a book of ideas and not practices, as he claims.

Although I agree with many of his statements, the book's structure seemed random, without a clear direction. At times, the leadership related terminology used was not familiar (e.g roving leaders, giants) and seemed to be of
Jun 24, 2010 Ensiform rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, work
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 defin
Aug 29, 2016 David rated it liked it
Shelves: leadership
I'm not really a huge fan of leadership books, I'm more of a history/theology nerd, but I know reading books like this can be helpful from time to time. This book is brief, to the point and filled with lots of great insights. DePree was the CEO of a large company and has a lot of wisdom to share. Further, he is a Christian which is either a bonus for you or maybe a negative, depending what you think of Christianity. This is not a "Christian" book though as the ideas can apply in any leadership c ...more
Sia Karamalegos
Mar 05, 2013 Sia Karamalegos rated it it was ok
I think Max has some great concepts, but they get lost in the confusing writing style. I think taken together, his ideas illustrate the values of a successful leader, but my fear is because of his incoherent writing style, people read this like a horoscope - they find the things that validate their own leadership style but skim over the rest of the very important characteristics of great leadership (partially because the concepts aren't clearly laid out).
This is one of the most powerful books on leadership I've ever read. Written like a personal manifesto, former Herman Miller CEO Max De Pree talks about leadership in terms of intimacy, elegance, joy and grace. He talks about how at great organizations, it's not about what you do but who you want to become. The book is filled with many "aha" moments, and I know this will be one I'll go back to over and over again for years to come.
Shannon Coughlin
Mar 08, 2017 Shannon Coughlin rated it really liked it
A much highlighted and flagged book.
Oct 17, 2016 Angela rated it liked it
Shelves: work, supervisory
Had some good ideas and things to remember...still really glad I'm not a supervisor anymore (but I seem to still be a bit of a leader)
Timothy Darling
Depree gives ample evidence to support his title, presenting leadership as he does with intangibles like character, service, the valuation of the worker, and the need of the leader to trust his people. His dedication to the concepts of servant leadership and to the Scanlon Principles. After looking up the Scanlon Principles, I found that they predate some of the material circulating in Servant Leadership circles (coming out of the Depression) and yet articulating some of the same ideals. I found ...more
Aug 08, 2012 JoAnn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Max DePree is the son of D.J. DePree, who was the founder of the furniture maker company, Herman Miller. Herman Miller has been widely recognized as a “brilliantly-managed” organization, dedicated to producing exquisitely-designed and crafted furniture. Max DePree wrote this book to share the ideas, beliefs and principles that have guided him and his father in their business dealings, but that have wide applicability to just about any group activity.

Throughout the book, DePree uses analogies and
J. Gibson Hartley
Feb 05, 2017 J. Gibson Hartley rated it liked it
De Pree admits that he is repetitive, defending this style as a way to present connections between his many leadership principles. The reader is able to walk away from a first read with a firm grasp on many of these principles--a plus, to be sure. Still, I found myself often zoning out in passages or skimming because he revisits core concepts so frequently.
Leadership is an Art inarguably offers insight on corporate leadership and leadership in a community, reminding us that leadership is inheren
Feb 23, 2016 Brian rated it it was ok
“Leadership is an Art” is not a book I would have read if it was not part of a course I took for work. Having finished it, I can only reiterate that point.
The best value from this book is when the author, Max DePree, quotes other people (Gandhi, etc.). Their words have depth and value. His own are mostly pleasant clichés. When DePree is telling an anecdote I found myself paying attention, but much of this slim volume is trite clichés or lists. Nothing wrong with clichés and list, two things I li
Carlos Iglesias
Jan 02, 2016 Carlos Iglesias rated it really liked it
Of the dozen or so leadership books I've read, the leadership that built the "the house of Hermann Miller" offers by far the most egalitarian approach to business leadership. A very easy read, it definitely challenged much of my initial skepticism with such a "soft" approach to business relationships. That said, it's certainly hard to argue with the success of the world preeminent commercial and residential furniture company. Where Frank Lloyd Wright, Saarinen, van der Rohe, and Johnson defined ...more
Christian Petrie
Jul 22, 2010 Christian Petrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
I had first read this back in college for one of my business courses. In the 15 years since, I decided to read it again, to see if I could learn from it.

I found the book to still be relevant for the most part. Even though the book appears to be designed for a management level, I found it can be incorporated to apply to departments as well.

The writing style is easy to read, but it should not be read as a book. It should be read as tool for learning. As I read it I took notes from it and see how I
Andy Hickman
Jan 14, 2015 Andy Hickman rated it liked it
Believers throughout Church history – the early fathers, the Reformers, the Puritans – have been inspired by Scripture to reduce spirituality to two lists known as “the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues” of saintliness. The former includes pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust. The latter includes wisdom, justice, courage, temperance, faith, love and hope.

Even though it finds its origin in one whose life was not centered on Christ our Lord, Mahatma Gandhi’s own list of “s
Jul 15, 2013 Elysse rated it really liked it
I like the ideas, and concepts depree has on leadership, and running an organization, for instance giving people space to be their best, or being a leader is actually to be in servitude of the ones they lead, and that treating customers as an interruption on your time is something to weep for. While reading this book, I thought of some great leaders I have had in the workplace and their qualities, and depree definitely pinpoints good qualities to look for in a leader, or to use an example to lea ...more
David Brownlee
Feb 26, 2009 David Brownlee rated it it was amazing
One of the best books on leadership out there (in the top five). The book actually discusses what leadership is. Depree shares explicitly the many sides of leadership, in addition he describes that every person in a organization is a leader in their own fashion. The term he uses for this type of leader is a, "roving leader," and these leaders, lead from their experience, education. And in this explanation he notes that good leaders take note of this, and listen. Depree explains the difference be ...more
Chadwick Collins
I somewhat struggle with this book. My early work experience was with businesses that were very "dictatorial" and because they were successful businesses (i.e. had been in business 10+ years and no signs of closing in the next 5), I concluded that this was a successful management structure. This book goes against those tenets and shows evidence that the books philosophy works. I am not saying it is wrong, or that one way is better than the other. It just went against the grain of what I know/bel ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Celestalis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is more like a quick-read "intro" into some intentional practices, ideas like: realized potential, inclusive system, participative management, tribal storytelling, stewardship, ownership. While reading this book I couldn't help thinking of one of my previous bosses, who is also a published author on similar subjects of "belonging." I am looking forward to diving into his books very soon. This book also struck a flame of excitement to learn more, and take responsibility for my work on a even ...more
Nov 07, 2011 YVLeadership rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
“One of the first business books I read and a jewel filled with wisdom and wonderful stories about the culture and great employees at the Herman Miller Company. It taught me the value of building healthy relationships, diversity of ideas/people and participative management. This may sound like common business practices today, but they were fairly new concepts in the 1980s. I especially loved how he wrote about creating an environment for staff of ‘realized potential.’”

-Pat Lawler, CEO, Youth Vil
Aug 03, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Max DePree's book on leadership is written from the perspective of a servant leader who seeks to empower others to develop their skills and effectiveness in the workplace. At the time of writing, he was chairman of Herman Miller, an office furniture manufacturer located in Western Michigan, that has produce innovative office furniture.

It is a simply written book by man who identifies himself as a Christian and as one who has sought to be a people developer. Some might find the book to be too sim
Dec 03, 2014 James rated it really liked it
Here is a leadership book that has sat on my shelf unread for far too many years. I appreciate DePree's thoughtful look at relational, servant leadership. Good stuff in here about intimacy, inclusivity in leadership, corporate storytelling and covenant relationships. Not your typical business fare. I like it.

I also found this an easy read. It doesn't give you a ten point structure or a clear business plan. This is more like a meandering conversation with a leadership mentor circling around impo
Pamela Hawley
Nov 13, 2013 Pamela Hawley rated it really liked it
This book is a quick read and a creative one. What’s wonderful about Max is leadership isn’t just business school principles. Leadership is evolving. It changes from day to day, team to team and we need to be flexible. The most important thing that leadership as an art is we need to be open on how to paint our canvas and most importantly to let people create their own canvases. We should all be considering unique ways to let people have a creative, unique voice. Let them be heard. Appreciate the ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Gwen rated it really liked it
Max Depree is the chairman of Herman Miller, the successful family furniture business. Depree writes Leadership is an art, as a quick and concise manner to run a company and more importantly lead people who want to work for your organization. There are ancdotes of workers and business people, with each story telling something valuable. I think this book will be a reference book for me to gather bits and pieces to motivate me and my work ethic. Depree stated "We must become, for all involved, a p ...more
Mar 18, 2010 Krys rated it liked it
Really less about leadership and more about how to write a great mission statement for a company. I liked the analogy for a company of profits compared to breathing, not the focus of your life but a necessity to continue on. Focused on the importance of finding the role and contribution of your company to society, something the CEO of BASF is often emphasizing in our new add campaigns, solving societies problems through chemistry.
Feb 12, 2010 Jodi rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book and think that all managers need to read this book and really look at what they do to help a company. Their attitude and daily interactions really do influence the attitudes and behaviors of their subordinates. If the leader is willing to step in and do what it takes to get things done then the coworkers will respect them. Also, if the coworkers are made to feel valued and listened to it goes a long way to helping with moral.
Apr 30, 2012 Jeremy rated it really liked it

A leadership book which seeks, with graceful language, to paint a picture of humane, covenantal leadership in the context of corporate business. Chapters on weeping, communication, tribal storytelling, intimacy, roving leadership, etc. help humanize the leader as a servant manager, seeking to craft artful and caring institutions with committed members. I enjoyed the bullet lists and personal anecdotes. I'll likely read this whenever I need a refresher on leading well.
Joel Gibbons
Jan 05, 2017 Joel Gibbons rated it liked it
This book is required reading for a leadership program I am attending. It was a quick read, which is good considering the somewhat disjointed style. Many of the ideas were positive and inspirational, but I found the book to be somewhat repetitive. The organization of chapters felt random to me. In the end, DePree shared some good things to remember as I lead my staff.
Robert Campbell
May 28, 2011 Robert Campbell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
If you only read one book about leadership, this should be it. Deceptively brief and easy to read. No quick fixes, no easy to follow step by step formula to advance to CEO. Only genuine reflection on the human condition and the efforts of people to work together to help a business succeed and to increase in moral self-worth.
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Max DePree is an American writer. A son of D.J. DePree, founder of Herman Miller office furniture company, he and his brother Hugh DePree assumed leadership of the company the early 1960s. He succeeded his brother Hugh as CEO in the mid-1980s and served in that capacity to 1990. His book Leadership is an Art has sold more than 800,000 copies. In 1992, DePree was inducted into Junior Achievement's ...more
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“In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be, by remaining what we are.” 102 likes
“(Productive Workers + Innovative Products = Industry Leadership, no?)” 3 likes
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