Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: "Leadership Jazz"

I wanted to write a review of Leadership Jazz by Max de Pree for a long time but somehow never managed to do so. It is one of these posts where you exactly know what you want to say, but somehow it doesn't come out, because it is more a gut feeling than a very intellectual opinion that you want to convey.

"Leadership Jazz" is not a technical book, that is to say there are no articles on how to organize yourself, to lead more efficient meetings or to hire a team. Instead, Max de Pree explains his vision of what it is to be a leader little by little, drawing on the considerable experience he had while being the CEO of Herman Miller.

This is what makes it hard to review. It is not a manual. It is more like the advice of a wise grand father, who tries to convey a part of the experience of a lifetime to the younger generation. It is not a book about being a manager, it's not a book about being a leader... It is more a book on how to be a decent human being.

It is filled of little gems of wisdom, and reading it was a strong experience for me, filled of little epiphanies where I just had to stop reading and go for a walk to digest what I just read.

I love so many quotes that I can't even begin to choose one, so I'm just going to pick a few at random.
  • Leaders ought never to embarrass followers
  • Equity is the special province of a leader
  • We have much to learn from jazz-band leaders, for jazz, like leadership combines the unpredictability of the future with the gifts of individuals
  • The servant-hood of leadership needs to be felt, understood, believed, and practiced [...]
  • You never want to go to sea with a captain that would rather be in port.
I basically found those quotes by picking a different page each time at random and scanning it quickly.

This book truly is the best I ever read on leadership. It applies to everybody. Managers of small teams, CEO's of multinational companies, parents, political figures, teachers... To me it is no wonder that Bill Clinton calls it "Astonishing".

When I read this book, I get the same feeling that I get when I read old chinese taoist classics like "The book of Leadership and Strategy". It seems profound, timeless, which is rare enough to be mentioned.

Read this book. Even if you are not a manager of any kind, it will make you a better human being.

You can find it on Amazon.

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