Danya Institute Inc.

Book Review: Redesigning Leadership by John Maeda

John Maeda’s Redesigning Leadership is a pretty little book whose insights about leadership are delivered in an easy to digest 78 pages. It has been definitively established that addictions treatment organizations are facing a severe shortage of adequately prepared leaders. While the author is not specifically coming from a behavioral healthcare background, many of his bountiful little nuggets of wisdom apply to leadership generally.

The author’s path to leadership was nontraditional. He thought he was on a fixed career track as a professor at MIT when he was quite unexpectedly recruited to be the President of the Rhode Island School of Design. He believed that “a creative leader is someone who leads with dirty hands, much the way an artist’s hands are often literally dirty with paint.” So in order to better understand the organization he was to lead he actually immersed himself in the day-to-day workings of the school firsthand by doing such tasks as serving food at the cafeteria and carrying the luggage of new students. However, he came to understand that the downside of being a ‘dirty-hands’ leader is that you risk ‘taking away the work that’s to be done by the people that you lead.”

He also recommends having the courage to acknowledge what you don’t know, declaring that: “competency results in success results in complacency results in failure results in learning how to be competent again.” Leaders need to be able to welcome criticism and receive it with grace in order to improve.

This little book will provide much food for thought for leaders at any stage in their professional development.