April 25, 2011

A Summary and Review of Leadership Jazz by Max De Pree for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One

A Summary and Review of Leadership Jazz by Max De Pree for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One: "

Executive Summary

Leadership Jazz is one of the most influential books I have ever read in my entire life. Max De Pree compares leadership from a musical perspective. This is very interesting because it gives the reader great insight on how leadership works in different groups, settings, and relationships. De Pree explains how a leader of a jazz band is a prime example of a leader of a business. A jazz band leader must operate his band efficiently by instilling faith and partnerships within each of his band members. This provides trust and honest between the members allowing for maximum efficiency of operations, in this case playing amazing jazz music.
Influential management leadership within a business can relate to great success such as the jazz band above. He explains that an efficient leader within a business must also be a follower. A leader who looks through the eyes of the employee will gain new perspectives on many different aspects of the business.
Management must exemplify distinct qualities to become efficient leaders. Honesty, integrity, courage, and faith are the four most prosperous qualities a leader should display. Being honest with your employees allows a great, efficient working environment. A leader must also show integrity by following and performing ethical moral procedures in the workplace. Courage within your business is a must, evaluate every aspect of your business and know potential outcomes. A leader must believe his company can be successful for it to actually happen. Last but not least, a leader must have faith. Complete trust and confidence in employees, customers, operations, and internal/external procedures also shapes a great leader.
A good leader must also accept when he is wrong. It is essential to take criticism and ask advice from employees, even the low-level ones. It shows maturity and is very humbling to employees throughout the workplace. They must be open with everyone and show humility. Essentially, an efficient leader must be humble, active, friendly, and knowledgeable in all fields. Leadership Jazz explains leadership to the tee and is a very influential book added to my personal library.

The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from Leadership Jazz

1. Who do you intend to be? – This is a very influential question for young managers. Young managers within the workplace must set a prime example of themselves early on into their careers. It will give them better understanding of how things operate within the business world. Quick experience is essential to great leadership within young mangers.

2. Gratitude – A person who grows great relationships in his or her personal and work life can grasp leadership quickly. It is also a must to positively influence other people he or she encounters in life. An effective leader must give credit and praise when it is due. Gratitude is a common quality of leadership.

3. Trust – A person who embodies trust within given people striving for success towards a common purpose shows great leadership. It takes a lot to trust someone and it spurs from our different experiences involving a person’s confidence and humility.

4. Respect – A person who shows respect towards other people heightens a leaders relationships with people to a greater extent. This spikes morale throughout the workplace and can mediate confrontations. A leader who respects policies, employees, and ethical standards will go far within the business world.

5. Personal restraint – A leader must connect their voice and touch within the workplace. An efficient leader will stress communication and high performance levels throughout the company. Leaders who communicate effectively with employees gain better understanding of participation and teamwork.

6. Mentoring – A great leader is open to mentoring all types of people to express different values and opportunities efficiently within the workplace. An efficient leader in management mentors to better the employee and not just the business. A special relationship must be formed between management and employees to implement the various business aspects that we’re covered.

7. Finding one’s voice – A leader must find his voice before all things within the workplace. He or she must express their own beliefs and conform them to work out positively within the workplace.

8. Accountability for others – A leader must hold accountability in all aspects. Taking responsibility for all actions he or she performs, whether good or bad, emanates a humbling presence within the company. Although, one cannot be held accountable for another person’s actions, an effective leader must delegate the outcomes effectively.

9. Bravery – A leader must be open to change and embrace it with full force. This shows bravery by the leader becoming pro-active and adapting with the specific changes quickly and efficiently.

10. Who speaks for whom? – A leader within management must have the final say when it comes to daily operations. A fine line must be drawn to let lower employees know who ultimately is in charge.

Full Summary of Leadership Jazz


Max De Pree opens up Leadership Jazz with four innovative questions. These four questions sum up an efficient leader perfectly.

  • How can I know what’s in the heart of my followers?

A leader must let his or her employees know that an open door policy is always in effect. An effective leader values their followers input and is open to various opinions and problems that are presented before them.

  • What gifts of leadership have I come to treasure most?

Great leadership results in the person portraying many influential qualities such as integrity, intimacy, innovation. This causes growing interest in the business throughout all stages and is very satisfying to the leaders’ experience.

  • Who do you intend to be?

An effective leader must know their specific purpose and vision that they wish to achieve. A person who sets milestones and goals to achieve success will go far and become very prevalent throughout the business.

  • What do you, as a leader, owe?

A person who strives to become a leader within a business must pay their own debt to the company. Hard work, dedication, and teamwork will show strong love and care for the good of the company.

What’s Fragile?

Any good leader is susceptible to betrayal. Betrayal is very ominous; however it can be very prevalent within the workplace. Business leaders have been betrayed a number of times, most commonly by employees. Employees do this by stealing supplies, undermining authority, and unethical behavior. These can be involved with some of the most fragile aspects of a company or organization. Unethical behavior can be one of the most fragile aspects tampered with within the business. It thwarts everything the leader fights and stands for. Any great leader puts their heart into the business and it can be extremely detrimental to a leader’s personality if betrayed. A leader puts their utmost trust in every employee within the workplace, and for it to be undermined is a big blow to one’s morale.

God’s Mix

This is a very influential chapter. De Pree explains vivid life events that deal with leadership. De Pree gives a vivid account of an African-American woman riding through the countryside with her family. It was during the late 1960’s, when racism was prevalent. Unexpectedly, the car was pulled over by a local policeman. The policeman quoted to her father, “Boy, when you ride in this county, you take you’re hat off.” Her father took it off until the county line. She vowed to make a difference for minorities when she got older. Thirty years later, the African American lady is working under a large business firm and notices unethical behavior dealing with certain minorities. The woman was outraged and vowed to take care of the problem. She brought valid research, testimony, and accounts to the attention of management. The problem was taken care of immediately and regular working conditions resumed. This is a prime example of a lower-level employee using leadership within the workplace. The reason why this is so influential is because of her unfortunate life event years ago, she had the willpower to do what is good for the company. That shows true leadership, not just in the workplace but in life.

Water Carriers

The American Indians are known as a group of people who represent leadership, teamwork, and bravery. The water carrier held one of the most important and respected positions within the tribe. They were assigned tribesman who would travel near and far in search of water holes. Water, like food, is essential for survival. This is a novel example of leadership because without this specific type of job assignment, the tribe may dehydrate. These water carriers traveled through rough terrains and conditions in search of the liquid gold for their tribe. They put their lives on the line for their tribe. This represents the utmost form of leadership. Water carriers can relate to business leaders today by persistence, dedication, and drive. These two different types of people will never give up. An efficient leader lets nothing get in his or her way towards their specific goal. They also must have the ability to think quickly and make quick efficient decisions. American Indians were some of America’s first leaders and I feel their customs should be applied within the workplace in a more current form. The relationship between business leaders and employees is symbiotic. One cannot live without the other. This is compared to the dependence of the water carriers from the tribe. Basically, an efficient leader can become even better by studying earlier leadership techniques and finding ways to improve on them.

Leaders’, Leaders

An efficient leader can become more effective by reflecting and conforming to beliefs of leaders before them. All great leaders have bred and nurtured innovation in many different ways. Innovation is a form of change and the American society is changing at a rapid pace. Our society is complex and is becoming larger by the minute. Business leaders must have the ability to embrace all types of change. This is done by the leader becoming innovative and encouraging employees to become more creative. Earlier leaders before us, stand out because their contributions are on such a large scale. However, they function mostly outside of business and organizations. The changes they bring are more like large leaps compared to the small steps of us. This is why reflection of all different types of leadership is important. One never knows when different styles of leadership can be presented.

Where do Ethics and Leadership Intersect?

It may seem surprising but ethics and leadership intersect very often. De Pree explains how relationships within the workplace can easily cause moral and ethical scrutiny. It is very hard to have personal relations with someone that one has to work with. I know from experience. Work tends to be the common subject at all times with the partner. It also is very hard to delegate duties and tasks with a girlfriend/boyfriend present. This is why good moral judgment must be used at all times. When do ethical beliefs of a leader cross his or her commitments to an organization? The line is crossed when the action can put the leaders’ reputation and job at stake. A real leader must know right from wrong and act accordingly to protocol. It is not good for a business to have leaders who are not ethically sound. De Pree explains how it can easily dismantle a whole corporation. The intersection of ethics and leadership represent justice, celibacy, and the common good. Ethical leadership cannot function without justice. Leaders are always in the public eye and constantly refining themselves. Justice can easily be one of the most important qualities in the eyes of one’s followers. It shows the extent of the leader’s faith in their company. It also establishes a credible basis for relationships witch is a must in leadership effectiveness. Celibacy also plays a huge role within the intersection. De Pree gives a vivid tale, back thirty years ago when he was a young manager. One Sunday evening, on his way back from church he was having an intimate conversation with his wife. De Pree explains, “Esther, Monday is going to be rough. We have to lay off forty men.” His wife comments, “You obviously aren’t thinking clearly. You’re lying off forty families.” It changed De Pree’s retrospect completely. Celibacy allows leaders to be accountable for intervening with organizational duties on behalf of families.

Common good is the third term that plays a role within this intersection. Common good inhibits leaders to look like small boys in August. De Pree explains how if one has ever raised children or grandchildren, by the end of summer little boys have skinned arms and knees, bruises, and torn clothes. This in essence is a true leader. The broad intersection between ethics and leadership will always be a prevalent topic within management leadership.

Give the Gift of Change

A leader must manage change positively, effectively, and gracefully. A leader’s main goal is to focus on what he or she needs to be rather than what needs to be done. This keeps everyone focused and on the right track to success. Leaders can implement the lives of many followers making leadership an ever evolving task. As stated earlier, change can be very important to a leader and a business. This specific change the business is going through can be stressful to employees. A leader must always be visible and present in the workplace, even more so when the business is experiencing a transition. Followers have a right to see their leaders Leaders must keep operations efficient, flowing, and consistent. This is achieved by making extensive communication very prevalent. Followers have the right to see their leaders at all times. Efficient communication involves employees coming together and implementing ideas effectively. The absence of communication will cause a business to suffer and ultimately fail. Employees must have effective collaboration to keep the business running smoothly.


De Pree once again explains another vivid tale of leadership within this chapter. He talks about his stint in World War II, where he served duty as a medical technician. One day, when he and one other surgeon, Col. Luther Carpenter, were the only soldiers in the medical wing, a young man was rushed in with a fractured skull. It was a bloody mess. He then had to perform last minute surgery under instruction from the experienced surgeon. De Pree removed a piece of membrane from the hamstring muscle and repaired the broken skull under the tutelage of Col. Carpenter. The surgery was a success due to the delegation expressed in the surgeon’s leadership. Clear instruction and confidence in success was what gave them the ability to achieve such a feat. Delegation allows the leader to connect voice and touch. It is important because it allows employees to grow and reach their potential.

Polishing Gifts

Leaders today must think about their families at all times. Many employees of a company must find log term potential and opportunity in the company to satisfy needs. This causes employees to stand ground with their business and never give up. Polishing gifts within a business is a must because it keeps employees up to date with various aspects of the business at all times.

Many employees must think how his or her family can cultivate new potential within each other. Leaders need personal support and insight from people they trust. Families of leaders paint their own picture of the company and are constantly finding pro-active ways to solve problems. Leaders need as much support as they can get. Polishing good leadership includes teaching and learning, building relationships, and influencing people.

The Attributes of A Leader: A Checklist

The final chapter gives a list of common attributes of a leader. Leaders must have integrity first and foremost. Integrity lays the basis of leadership. Leaders must have vulnerability. Vulnerable leaders have the ability to put faith and trust within other employees. Courage in relationships is also a must within leadership. The ability to gain the utmost effectiveness within every relationship that is formed. A leader must also have a compassionate sense of humor. It is essential to have a sense of humor when living with ambiguity. Finally, leaders must respect the future, regard the present, and understand the past. This is an essential part of leadership within a business. Leaders who understand the past, present, and future will go very far within a business. Basically, a leader can possess many types of different qualities at all time. De Pree gives a vivid account of leadership within this book.

The Video Lounge

This video explains the concept of leadership terms that are explained within the novel Leadership Jazz. It takes a lot to become a leader. This video explains how a leader must continually practice and learn all types of leadership at all times. Practice makes perfect within leadership. It also explains how a leader must be open to failure and embrace it. A leader, who accepts failure, knows what he or she wants out the business and will do anything to avoid it.

Personal Insights

Why I think:

  • The author is one of the most brilliant people around because he is a successful, positive leader. Max De Pree gives vivid accounts of many types of leadership, which causes the reader to be in tune with every page. He explains how leadership is a life long duty and not just a temporary one. Leadership must be displayed in all aspects of life, other than just within the workplace. De Pree explains how a person who finds leadership, in essence is living the American dream.

Then, all of the following bullet-items are mandatory to write about:

  • If I were the author of the book, I would have done these three things differently:

1. The author could have given greater insight on international leadership involving different cultures and societies. It should take into account how a leader must act and conform to customs in different countries. Having great leadership internationally causes leaders to become more in tune with each other.

2. The author could have elaborated on how leaders affect the breadth of an organization. Breadth is a vision of what the organization can become due to great leadership. I feel De Pree could have explained this better by giving valid examples of breadth within the workplace other than just giving the basic definition. I find that breadth can easily affect the future success of a business. This is why I feel this topic should have been elaborated better.

3. De Pree could have elaborated his description on leadership failures within the book. Even though leaders must embrace failure, detailed steps could have been thought out to avoid it. De Pree does give a vivid description of failure; however he should have gone above and beyond with this particular subject.

  • Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:

1. It changed my outlook on leadership as a whole. Before reading this book, I thought leadership was just great determination within a person. Obviously, it pertains to much more than that. This book taught me that leadership comes in many different forms and is always susceptible to changing.

2. It changed my outlook on personal leadership as a whole. De Pree explains that true leadership includes his or her family within every aspect of the business. A great leader keeps his personal relations healthy and happy as well as his business relations. A person who can juggle these two consistently is in essence a true leader.

3. It changed my outlook on responsibility and loyalty. I learned that a leader must delegate a responsibility to every single employee within the workplace. This cancels monotone, boring days on the job and instills goal-oriented ideas within employees. Loyalty is also a key success factor within leadership. A true leader gains loyalty by being up front and honest with every employee. No topic should ever be sugar coated.

  • I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book in my career by:

1. Always striving for the next best thing. True leaders are always looking for improvement and innovation to the next step. I believe that if one sets their goals and dreams high; it will positively affect their drive and leadership within the workplace.

2. Never give up. This book has taught me that true leaders strive for success by any means necessary. Leaders must jump hurdles to achieve continued success, but that determination must be there.

3. Confidence is very important. A leader must emit confidence at all times. Confidence must be contagious. An effective leader passes confidence on to the people around him.

  • Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its author:

I was unable to find a scholarly review, however I did find a thorough and interesting on-line review. This review gives a great description of the book entailing key points from De Pree’s novel. The review completed by Kaki Read emphasizes that the relationship between leaders and followers are very sacred. De Pree makes this very evident throughout his novel. Leaders depend on followers and vice-versa.

This review also emphasizes on De Pree’s explanation of leader and follower communication. As stated in the jazz band example, a jazz band cannot play music efficiently without some kind of either non-verbal or verbal communication. It is extremely important to hold communication up to its highest standards. Management leaders must collaborate with employees often. As Kaki Read states, “Management doors must remain open in order for both groups to progress toward both personal development and a promising future for the entire organization.”

I learned a good bit from this view. It was very interesting to read another readers thoughts and comments on the novel. It gave me better understanding and I feel I took more of the book in. I plan to use the facts I learned in this book in my career and everyday life.

Link to review profiled: http://www.teachingpr.org/management_book_reviews/2009/11/leadership-jazz-by-max-depree.html


Bridgeman, C (2009). Leadership Jazz by Max DePree. Retrieved from http://www.teachingpr.org/management_book_reviews/2009/03/leadership-jazz-by-max-de-pree.html
DePree, M. (1992). Leadership Jazz: The Essential Elements of A Great Leader. New York, New York: Double Day Publishing Group
Read, K. (2009). Leadership Jazz by Max DePree. Retrieved from http://www.teachingpr.org/management_book_reviews/2009/11/leadership-jazz-by-max-depree.html
Scarborough, T. (n.d.). John Mark Ministries: Leadership Jazz. Retrieved from http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/16081.htm

Contact Info

To contact the author of this article, “A Summary and Review of Leadership Jazz by Max De Pree for Thinking Executives – and Those Who Want to be One,” please email Michael.Zuppardo@selu.edu or destrehan88@gmail.com.


David C. Wyld (dwyld.kwu@gmail.com) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/. He also serves as the Director of the Reverse Auction Research Center (http://reverseauctionresearch.com/), a hub of research and news in the expanding world of competitive bidding. Dr. Wyld also maintains compilations of works he has helped his students to turn into editorially-reviewed publications at the following sites:



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