Max DePree is a recognized expert on participative leadership.
In Leadership Jazz he focuses on the integration of voice and touch. Voice is related to what a leader believes; touch is related to a leader’s competence and resolve.
Finding One’s Voice
“[A] leader’s voice is the expression of one’s beliefs….A leader’s touch demonstrates competence and resolve…” (p. 5).
“Leadership can never stop at words. Leaders must act, and they do so only in the context of their beliefs. Without action or principles, no on can become a leader” (p. 6).
“Leadership is…not a position but a job. It’s also a serious meddling in other people’s lives. One examines leadership beginning not with techniques but rather with premises, not with tools but with beliefs, and not with systems but with understandings” (p. 7).
“A jazz band is an expression of servant leadership. The leader of the band has the beautiful opportunity to draw the best out of other musicians. We have much to learn from jazz-band leaders, for jazz, like leadership, combines the unpredictability of the future with the gifts of individuals” (p. 9).
Five criteria for faithfulness in leadership:
- “Integrity in all things” (p. 10).
- “The servanthood of leadership” (p. 10).
- “Accountability for others” (p. 11).
- The “practice of equity” (p. 11).
- Vulnerability (p. 12).
A Key Called Promise
“[The] goals of the organization are best met when the goals of people in the organization are met at the same time” (p. 23).
“Any follower has the right to ask many things of her leader….
- “What may I expect of you?
- Can I achieve my own goals by following you?
- Will I reach my potential by working with you?
- Can I entrust my future to you?
- Have you bothered to prepare yourself for leadership?
- Are you ready to be ruthlessly honest?
- Do you have the self-confidence and trust to let me do my job?
- What do you believe?” (p. 24).
“From a leader’s perspective, the most serious betrayal has to do with thwarting human potential, with the quenching of the spirit, with failing to deal equitably with each other as human beings” (p. 34).
“Leaders must speak to followers; we must let them know where and how we stand on important issues. We constantly make decisions and evaluate results in light of what we believe” (p. 36).
“Vulnerability in a leader enables others to do their best and to be fully accountable. And, of course, being vulnerable to the strengths of other people also makes the leader vulnerable to their weaknesses” (p. 41).
“Preparation for leadership does not come from books. Books sometimes give you an insight or an outline, but real preparation consists of hard work and wandering in the desert, much feedback, much forgiveness, and the yeast of failure” (pp. 42, 43).
“Everybody battles for success; too few people are aware of its profound impact. Success tends to breed arrogance, complacency, and isolation. Success can close the mind faster than prejudice. Success if fragile, like a butterfly. We usually crush the life out of it in our efforts to possess it” (p. 47).
“[The] mystery around potential is so great that even the most perceptive of us cannot look at a person and decide for certain whether or not she’ll be good at this or that, whether or not she’ll become a sales manager or vice president — or even the best shortstop you ever saw. We really should be in awe of human potential” (p. 53).
“We are dealing with God’s mix, people made in God’s image, a compelling mystery” (p. 57).
“Corporations, colleges, and hospitals can become sustaining institutions like tribes. The can be the source of belonging; they can be the locus of achievement; they can be a real life- and work-support system” (pp. 65, 66).
“Leaders define [diversity of opinion]; the watercarriers of an institution communicate and exemplify the ties that bind the institution together” (p. 66).
“I like to think of management in two broad categories, scientific and tribal. The tribal is certainly the most important and, while palpable is quite difficult to grasp and nurture….Tribal means shared goals but different and separate responsibilities….You can’t be hired into a tribe. Joining a tribe results in a certain intimacy. This intimacy links the talents and skills that each of us brings to the job and the corporation on behalf of our customers–with marvelously delightful and worthwhile results” (pp. 70, 71).
“I happen to think that the greatness of the [democratic capitalistic] system results from three characteristics–enormous freedom, clear choice, and inevitable consequences….People with the freedom to choose have to consider their choices, and the act of choosing, of course, has a catch-the consequences” (pp. 78, 79).
“[Two] attitudes will guide us into constructive responses to change. First, it’s important to understand that neither change nor the person who leads change is our enemy….Second, the rate of change today requires that each of us become a frantic learner” (pp. 83, 84).
“If we choose beauty and harmony, we give ourselves a unique, competitive advantage” (p. 89).
“I happen to believe that a large part of the secret [to renewal and innovation and vitality] lies in how individual leaders in a great variety of settings make room for people with creative gifts and temporarily become followers themselves” (p. 94).
“How does a leader approach the process of creative work?
- A leader protects unusual persons from the bureaucracy and legalism so ensconced in our organizations. A leader remains vulnerable to real surprise and to true quality….
- A leader works with creative people without fear…” (pp. 96, 97).
“I learned that if you’re a leader and you’re not sick and tired of communicating, you probably aren’t doing a good enough job” (p. 100).
“[Creative people] need large doses of diverse experience, because their work is often a process of discovering and connecting” (p. 101).
“A writer, when asked why he wrote, replied, ‘Because I have to, not because I want to'” (p. 102).
“Creative people, like the rest of us, need constraints” (p. 103).
“All things cannot, and must not, be quantified” (p. 106).
“Good work is the goal; recognition is a consequence” (p. 107).
“The lore of life, the way to one’s voice, comes more from mistakes than achievements, more from listening than talking, more from these teachers and enablers than from one’s own understanding” (pp. 111, 112).
“Have you taken five to ponder the nature of the contribution that other people make to your leadership? I highly recommend it” (p. 114).
What Would Bucky Say?
“But how are leaders to measure their performance? Since the effects of a leader’s decisions and actions are often not apparent until months, sometimes years later, measuring a leader’s contribution is especially difficult” (pp. 116, 117).
Give the Gift of Change
“Some gifts to ponder:
- Space–to be the kind of person I can be.
- Opportunity–to serve.
- Challenge–constraints are enabling friends.
- Clarity–in objectives, in evaluation, and in feedback.
- Authenticity–that gives hierarchy its true value, that gives me the right to offer my gifts, that neither overlooks nor oppresses.
- Meaning–a lasting foundation of hope.
- Accountability–a result of love.
- Conscience–that forbids people to enjoy apathy or debilitating ease…”
and “an ethos for change” (p. 141).
“A good leader says, “I love you enough to make you accountable. You have the right to be part of this task” (p. 155).
“As I see it, delegation requires a form of dying, a separation of issue from self. We must surrender or abandon ourselves to the gifts that other people bring to the game. We must become vulnerable to every person’s need to do her best….This means to me that we must go beyond learning a single skill or specific knowledge to acquiring the art and grace of a job” (pp. 157, 158).
“As someone once said, in delegating, leaders give roots and they give wings” (p. 160).
“Polishing gifts is different than career development” (p. 169).
“To be an amateur means literally that you do something for the love of it” (p. 188)”.
“Amateurs simply don’t know what they can’t do” (p. 193).
“I’ve often asked myself, ‘Are the poorest sandlot baseball players chosen last because they commit so many errors? Or do they commit errors because they’re chosen last?” (p. 198).