I’ve been reading a lot lately – mostly fiction: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx; Peace Like a River by Leif Enger; The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things – both by Cheryl Strayed.

I did, however, manage to fit in a non-fiction read over the Thanksgiving holiday. Redesigning Leadership by John Maeda. One of the bloggers I read, Swiss-Miss, recommended his book. Wikipedia notes that John Maeda is a Japanese-American graphic designer, computer scientist, academic, and author. His work in design, technology and leadership explores the area where the fields merge. He is the current President of the Rhode Island School of Design.

I liked his unique take on the value of creativity and intuition and connection in being a leader. Through his personal experience and stories, he examines leadership through a macros lens and a micro lens and blends the two into practical advice.

Here are some of the lines I highlighted:

  • “Ue ni wa ue ga are.” It translates literally as, “Above up, there is something even higher above up.” To me it is an eloquent expression of not only an unattainable goal in life, but also the nature of human ambition – of constantly wanting to become better.
  • When people ask if I’ve stopped designing I say, “No. I’m designing how to talk about/with/for our Rhode Island School of Design community.”
  • Doing right matters more than being right (I really like this one)
  • I’ve learned that the higher up you go in an organization, the less likely people are to say what’s on their mind, for fear of retribution.
  • Critique teaches you how to listen hard to others’ criticism so you can listen hardest to yourself.
  • Although data can make a compelling case for something, data rarely create the emotions needed to spur people into action.
  • Be confident that a leap can be taken, and that you will land standing. Artists do it all the time.
  • The assumption behind increased transparency is that having access to all the facts will make everyone rest easier. But as I’ve learned… mere exposure to information doesn’t equate with true understanding.
  • No matter what the message, however, one thing I’ve learned is most important to convey is respect – it’s the prerequisite for any other kind of communication. Finding, knowing, and owning the respect that each audience deserves is the place where real communication is born.
  • Much of how designers work and think is hidden in the details.
  • Starting a team: standing in the same room is a big, big, start.
  • I still believe that the only way a leader has a chance to connect is to start by revealing her own humanity.

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