Tuesday, April 14, 2009


One of my favorite books on leadership is Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree. His philosophy of leadership really resonates with me. I use a number of his thoughts and quotes in my presentations on leadership.

Here is something he wrote that I must admit I have not focused much on, but seems especially relevant these days:

"Leaders must take a role in developing, expressing, and defending civility and values. In a civilized institution or corporation, we see good manners, respect for persons, an understanding of “good goods,” and an appreciation of the way in which we serve each other.

Civility has to do with identifying values as opposed to following fashions. Civility might be defined as an ability to distinguish between what is actually healthy and what merely appears to be living. A leader can tell the difference between living edges and dying ones.

To lose sight of the beauty of ideas and of hope and opportunity, and to frustrate the right to be needed, is to be at the dying edge.

To be part of a throwaway mentality that discards goods and ideas, that discards principles and law, that discards persons and families, is to be at the dying edge.

To be at the leading edge of consumption, affluence, and instant gratification is to be at the dying edge.

To ignore the dignity of work and the elegance of simplicity, and the essential responsibility of serving each other, is to be at the dying edge.

…. To be a leader means, especially, having the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who permit leaders to lead." (pp, 21-22).

Can you tell the difference between “living edges and dying ones?” When the pressure appears to be on, which one will you take a stand for?

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