Inspiring others, stoking a fire of passion in others, is an art that cannot be understated. To inspire others to follow you, embrace your dream as their own, and work towards making that dream come true, is a phenomenal though poorly understood concept that paradoxically remains of the utmost significance in the professional world, yet fails to be taught. How does an entrepreneur teach others to be the best of themselves? How does a leader cultivate ambition while retaining top talent? How does a CEO gain the loyalty of his/her workers and not encourage stagnancy?

Such are but a few of the many questions that Max Depree’s Leadership is an Art explores with versatile accuracy. Acknowledging the multitude of prevailing beliefs that currently characterize the ‘right way’ to lead, Depree concisely but comprehensively answers many of the questions that plague modern leadership. He teaches many lessons, and so I have chosen to list a few of my favorite just below:

“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 developing any capitalistic enterprise, the leader must understand expectation and articulate what is considered success and what is failure. In achieving such, the leader must do whatever they can to produce what he or she said would be produced, be that a product or service. Yet, even when acting as a “servant,” the leader must understand they are always doing so for a price, thus acting as a “debtor.”

“Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.”

The harsh reality of running a business is that there is sacrifice. There is burden. There is pain. However, even in the face of difficulty, a leader cannot bend to the stress. To bend to the stress, to take your stress and displace it onto others, namely other employees, is to discourage those you’re supposed to encourage. In order to secure the best possible productivity from your workers, you must set a stellar example they can model. While it is hard to not internalize stress, leaders must strive to remain relaxed. Otherwise, said internalized stress will manifest in other ways, hurtful ways.

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

An important though subjective distinction, it is significant to let your employees know they have a voice in the organization and where it’s going. However, an effective leader must also realize that, ultimately, the final decision is up to him or her. Moreover, employees themselves must realize this. They must understand that while their input is appreciated, it is not necessarily, or by any means really, the end all be all. Depree delves into detail on this vague idea and provides insightful advice on how to approach and implement this philosophy.

The truth is that leadership is a dynamic skill, changing with the tides and altering with the current state of the company. What leadership requires a year ago may be different today. What leadership requires at one company may differ considerably from what leadership requires at a different company. Leadership is malleable, flexible, but strong. It is an art top business executives must learn and must always continue to learn; and Depree helps do just that.

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