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Polishing Gifts by Max De Pree

Max De Pree was a former Chairman and CEO of HermanMiller



from Leadership Jazz by Max  De Pree.

If this is helpful, you should buy his book. By itself this is not strategically critical to society, economy, or polity, but he helps us focus on areas that may improve the quality of some individual lives. More powerful ideas can be found in Peter Drucker's work.

Opportunities for developing one's leadership and managerial abilities abound. Most concern one's career and focus on corporate or institutional needs. Since the corporation or the institution is paying the bill, this probably make sense. It may not be enough, however, for you as an individual.

The organization assumes that you'll be sticking to a career track for life. Maybe that's true, but maybe it isn't. The organization seldom asks what your spouse thinks, or what your life plan might be, or whether the organization's direction really aligns with what you consider to be your gifts.
  • We and our families need to think seriously about long-term potential and opportunity.
  • We need to take into account not only the needs of our careers, but the "careers" of every member of our families.
  • We need to focus on those areas of extracurricular service that provide us health.
  • We need to be aware that many organizations too easily dispense with persons.
  • We need to be aware that the United States is a nation of volunteers; city councils and hospital boards and school boards need leaders just as badly as institutions.

Leaders polish all their facets equally.

Developing one's career alone won't be enough for leaders. Communities and organizations need different things from leaders, qualities that must be nurtured and grown simultaneously. Leaders think about polishing their personal gifts. And it has always seemed to me that crystals with many facets shine brightest.

Polishing gifts differs from career development. Though many people will be ready to help you reach your potential, you must act first.

Leaders see a twofold opportunity--to build a life and to build a career. And the fact is that people become leaders only by building both.

Polishing gifts is a family affair, not an individual event. You might even think of it as an amateur event . I hope that it will come naturally to you to see polishing gifts in the light of your contribution to the common good as opposed to accumulating for yourself experiences and goods. Leaders deal in substance and the quality of life, deaf to the calls to pursue quantity and appearances.

Leadership is a job, not a position. The people who work with you are not your people; you are theirs. Leadership is good work because leaders feel a strong need to express their potential and because they wish to serve the needs of others. This is the essence of becoming a "servant leader."

Good leaders know that moving up in the hierarchy does not magically confer upon them competence. They know that being elected president, for instance, gives them the opportunity to become president. Leaders also know that their real security lies in their personal capabilities, not in their power or position.

A leader's capabilities begin to be tested shortly after she arrives on the job. Spontaneity and reflection begin to fade away amid the din of schedules leaders don't make and commitments they don't seek out. Required reading begins to edge out elective reading. More and more energy goes into resisting pressure to move in undesired directions. Truly, serving as a leader is a trying vocation.

See the book for the remainder of the chapter


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving toward unimagined futures.

It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then figure out a coping plan for what you’ve rejected.

Your future is between your ears and our future is between our collective ears — it can’t be otherwise. A site exploration starting point



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