Leadership Is an Art

Max Depress 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.

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It is also fundamental for the success of a business and it requires numerous skills from arioso 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 Depress book plays an important role among them. Max Deeper 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” gagging. M. Deeper has received the Business Enterprise Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Leadership is one of the main themes that Deeper has written about in books such as “Leadership Jazz”, “Leading without power”, “Called to serve” and last but not least, “Leadership is an art”. Deeper 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. He 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 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 Coos who build buildings”, ay make one vice president, mix he “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 hereto be an efficient leader.

Deeper defines the main responsibilities of the leader in a way that allows the readers to draw general picture of what the philosophy at the basis of his actions is: “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”. What Deeper means is that the leader lays an essential role in determining the coordinates of a desired situation. However, his control is not complete upon all the variables.

A leader is not one who just gives orders and then waits for the results, but one who is able to think about the actions that need to be taken in order for the purpose to be achieved. In addition, the leader should be able to think about how the strategy is to be implemented and develop the necessary techniques in order for the process to be completed smoothly. Furthermore, the leader must get involved in all the phases of the strategy ( creation and implementation) in order to sake sure that everything goes according to plan and to stimulate the human resources involved .

Another important concept that , in Depress conception the leader must understand is that of “person” : “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”. What the author means is that the employees of a company or an organization in general should not be regarded as simple resources, as robots which are meant to fulfill the tasks given by their period.

The people involved in any process must be regarded and treated as individuals with their own talent and potential. Allowing one to use his own gift and stimulating his potential allows the entire process to be developed. In addition, what a leader should understand is that different people have different skills and aptitudes. They can not be treated as mass with the same characteristics. They react to different stimuli and motivations and they perform the same tasks with various degrees of efficiency.

That is why, in order to make the best of the human resources involved in a process, it is important to treat people like individuals with their own specific needs and capacities. In addition, what Deeper suggests is to stimulate people according to their own skills. In this manner, their potential is developed and they bring a maximum personal contribution to the achievement of the overall goal. The motivation of this kind of approach to leadership is given in another chapter as it follows: “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”. What Deeper underlines is the concept of team work. Nonetheless, this concept is supported by deeper principles which are more difficult to apply. Deeper defines a philosophical principle that in his opinion should stay at the basis of the leadership process. This principle refers to the capacity of one who is in a position of authority to accept his own limits and appeal to those who are better at doing a certain action for the sake of achieving the final success.

The emphasis is put not only on accepting diversity as a main characteristic that is to be met in a team, but also to accept it. At this point, Deeper is speaking not about skills but about attitudes that must be supported by beliefs. The reader can notice that the author goes right to the root of the problem, trying to explain the philosophical principles that should support the leader in his attempts to improve himself and his performances. The role of the leader is defined as it follows: “Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain. What does the author actually mean is that the leader is far from being one who just decides what needs to be done and then watches from a distance, giving awards to those who have accomplished their tasks on the one and, and punishing those who have not succeeded on the other hand. The leader is the one who carries the heaviest of the responsibilities on his shoulder. The perspective that Deeper has upon the leader is not that of an authoritarian person who bases his authority upon his status.

On the contrary, Max Deeper encourages a participative management philosophy, where the leader is actually the basis and the support for the entire process. This is extremely difficult to achieve and in this regard, the author of “Leadership” is an art makes it clear that leadership is not something that anyone can perform. There are only some people who have the talent and the skills in order to be good leaders. Deeper takes the matter further and considers even the ethical dimension of the problem under discussion.

One of the main principles that should support the actions of a leader is the Christian one : “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 implication”. There are several observations that should be done regarding this conception that Deeper suggests as being of high importance. The first aspect that needs to e noticed is that the leader does not become a leader just due to his capacities and talent.

One needs to prove his capacities in order to achieve this position. But the difficulty is not to gain the position. The hardest thing to do is to maintain the position. What Deeper underlines is that a leader must be accepted by the people he leads. His authority malls be understood and appreciated, not imposed. Authority comes from the people who are under the supervision of the leader and it is not imposed upon them by a mere status.

Authority is given by the status, but the status itself is not enough to maintain the authority. A system here people do what their superior tells them just because he is their superior is a system where things can be easily damaged. An efficient system is one in which the employees invest their leader with authority. However, this situation does not come naturally. It is the leader himself who should have the capacity to communicate with the employees and develop personal relations that will create such a situation.

The relation between the leader and the employees should be one of collaboration and mutual support and not one in which one party gives the order and the other one fulfils it. Max Deeper develops this idea and brings new concept into discussion, the one of freedom: “Leaders owe people space, space in the sense of freedom. Freedom in the sense of enabling our gifts to be exercised”. This idea supports a previous one that the authors insisted upon, that of accepting and understanding the differences between people.

It is interesting to notice that the accent is put not only on the rights of the leader but also on his obligations. This time, it is not a contractual obligation, but a moral responsibility. Furthermore, it could be stated that it is not just a moral responsibility, but what one may very well call “efficient thinking’. What the efficient leader should do is stimulate the employees, thus making it easier for them to solve the problems themselves, in their own rhythm and with their own personal methods.

In this way, the task of the leader becomes easier from a certain point of view, in the sense that he is no longer forced to think about every little problem and what is the best method to avoid it if possible or to solve it. Working as a team makes everyone do their best in order to accomplish their goal. In this way everybody benefits, since the success of the team has positive consequences on each of its members. However, it is important to do things in a balanced manner.

Giving the employees freedom, encouraging initiative and creative thinking doe not mean letting people solve problems on their own, without any help or suggestion, or worse, allowing them to behave as they wish. When it comes to being part of an organization and working as part off team, it is important for everyone to know what the organization is about, what its functioning principles are, what are the reasons for which it functions, what are the ideas that support its functioning and why :” Interestingly, though in organizations like ours we need a lot of freedom, there s no room for license.

Discipline is what it takes to do the job. ” What Deeper is actually saying is that there is no universal recipe for a successful and efficient leader. When a team is involved, various problems occur. There is no universal pattern that can be applied to all the teams, even taking into consideration the generally known differences between people. The leader must be allowed to behave in a manner that is supported by all the principles and ideas mentioned by Deeper by now.

In other words, the employees have their responsibilities as well. But the author of “Leadership is an art” goes deeper into the analysis of he problem and states that one of the main characteristics that people need in order to be able to function properly as part of a team ( and a successful one as well) is discipline. People are not born with discipline as one of their traits, it is acquired through education and more importantly, through self education. It can hardly function if it is imposed on someone.

Another principle that Deeper defines as an important characteristic of this ideal leader that he attempts to describe in his book, is the capacity to foresee the direction of a certain process. This capacity is not a supernatural one, but one based on experience, careful and instant observation of the ongoing processes and last but not least on a strong intuition :” One of the important things leaders need to learn is to recognize the signals of impending deterioration. ” One of the main functions of the leader, in the opinion of Deeper is prevention.

Thus, the management approach that he takes into consideration is the proactive one, and not the reactive one. This is why Deeper speak about the signals of deterioration, and not the actual and already installed process of deterioration. And the signals are to be recognized both in the process and in the people. People are the engine supporting and erecting the process, that is why it is essential to observe people and their behavior. Deeper also insists upon the process of communication that should be done at all levels, formal and informal and in all directions, vertical and horizontal.

The leader should be able to receive continuous feedback from his employees. In this manner he can have a better chance of anticipating the direction of the processes and strategies that they are implementing It is also very important for the communication process to be based on a relationship of trust and mutual respect. And not be done just because it has to be done. Leaders can create this climate of confidence, one again by proving themselves to be understanding :”Without forgiveness, there can be no real freedom to act”.

What Deeper means is not that when something goes wrong people should not even discuss the matter. Nor should they be punished in a drastic manner. The important thing is to communicate in order to find out what went wrong, when, how and highly important, why. In this manner, it is easier for further shortcomings to be avoided. But in order for such discussions to take place, the leader and the employees must benefit from a certain type of relationship. And his relationship can be built when the leader does not put extreme pressure on the employees.

In other words, it is important for the leader to be able to make his team understand the importance of their goal, as well as the mechanisms and techniques that they should apply in order to achieve their goal, instead of relying solely on his authority. What the leader must communicate to his employees is that his role is to coordinate and help, top support the process and the people involved in it, and not supervise and punish in case something goes wrong. His perceived role should be the one of a partner, and not of an absolute Euler who holds the keys to absolute knowledge.

There are various similarities between the conceptions that Deeper basis his philosophy on and the principles regarding leadership that we have studied. One of them is that leadership is actually an art that not many have the capacity to handle. It is not a skill that you acquire by learning well defined techniques and tactics, but a talent. Not only does it imply hard work, but it is based on principles that come from education and self education. Furthermore, it is essential to understand that leadership is a subtle instrument that can make miracles if used properly. A leader does not have a perfect recipe that he or she can use.

People work in teams, which has numerous advantages, but this implies a lot of difficulties as well. People are different. They think differently, they act differently. Therefore, they must be treated differently. And what the leader must do is understand these differences and approach them in the right manner. In addition, the person in a position of power and authority is not a robot himself. The status , with its responsibilities and benefits, makes the leader as a person change. At the same time, the leader just find the proper balance between his personal way of being, his beliefs, attitudes and the behavior imposed by his status.

A leader’s attribution affects his behavior. Even if one who like to proceed in a certain manner, sometimes, circumstances impose a different manner of behaving. However, in Depress opinion, there are certain principles that a good leader should respect regardless of the circumstances he or she finds himself in, and these principles regard mostly the ethic dimension involved in any management process, and generally in any leadership issue. The leadership model that the author speaks about is he strategic one. The leader must have the capacity to develop the skills of his employees( and his own),.

Self-awareness, self-efficacy as well as the emotional fortitude are among the characteristics required by the so called “ideal” type of leader. In addition, the leader should be able to come up with a visionary plan when it comes to projecting a strategy. Just like Deeper underlines, the leader should be a careful observer that can foresee the course of a process, recognizing the signs of a future deterioration of the situation. More importantly, the leader himself should be the change agent. When the situation demands it, t is the leader that must change, giving an example to the others.

But this is not enough, he must also provide people with the stimuli and various motivations to accept the change, to understand it. At the same time, it could be stated that the leader that Max Deeper speaks about fits the pattern of the transformational leadership model. Under these circumstances, one must underline the importance given to the capacity of representing an intellectual stimulation for the others that are under his or her supervision, as well as an inspirational motivation. The charismatic leadership model is to be found among the reminisces described and used my Max Deeper in his book “Leadership is an art”.

One of the main points that Deeper insists upon is the attention that the leader must pay to the personal need of his employees for personal development and achievement. His perspective is a humanitarian one, with a strong ethic and moral influence. Deeper ‘s book “Leadership is an art” stands out among the other books that have been written on the same theme, not juts through its holistic approach, but through the fact that it does not wish to represent a manual including well defined steps on how to be a successful leader, but it commends the very philosophical principles that should lay at the basis of becoming a good leader.

Although it may be considered to be too idealistic, the book provides key elements as supporting factors for the development of leadership, both as concept and process. Deeper deals with numerous aspects involved by the matter, even the vulnerability that one may experience in thus position. One of the main strong points of the book is that it can be considered useful not just by people working in the are of business. Leadership is not limited to financial profit and doing businessћ it can be found in other areas such as the social and political ones.

The complexity of the book makes it proper for the study of leadership in each of these contexts. What Deeper attempts to teach his readers is that one can become a leader if he is dedicated enough and has the free spirit and open mindedness to do it. All in all, Max Depress book “Leadership is an art” is one that covers the issue of leadership from a multiplicity of perspectives, providing us with a sort of manual not for the process of leading, but for the philosophy of leadership.