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Redesigning Leadership

Redesigning Leadership

John Maeda
with Becky Bermont
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 96
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  • Book Info
    Redesigning Leadership
    Book Description:

    When designer and computer scientist John Maeda was tapped to be president of the celebrated Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, he had to learn how to be a leader quickly. He had to transform himself from a tenured professor--with a love of argument for argument's sake and the freedom to experiment--into the head of a hierarchical organization. The professor is free to speak his mind against "the man." The college president is "the man." Maeda has had to teach himself, through trial and error, about leadership. In Redesigning Leadership, he shares his learning process. Maeda, writing as an artist and designer, a technologist, and a professor, discusses intuition and risk-taking, "transparency," and all the things that a conversation can do that an email can't. In his transition from MIT to RISD he finds that the most effective way to pull people together is not social networking but free food. Leading a team? The best way for a leader to leverage the collective power of a team is to reveal his or her own humanity. Asked if he has stopped designing, Maeda replied (via Twitter) "I'm designing how to talk about/with/for our #RISD community." Maeda's creative nature makes him a different sort of leader--one who prizes experimentation, honest critique, and learning as you go. With Redesigning Leadership, he uses his experience to reveal a new model of leadership for the next generation of leaders.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29596-3
    Subjects: Business, Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    Becky Bermont

    We didn’t know it when I started working for him, but my partnership with John began with our professional interests set to collide. A lifetime academic who had always engaged with industry from the outside, he had just finished an MBA and was curious about what the work of leading large organizations was like. I’d finished my MBA at Stanford and, as the story often goes, had become quickly disenchanted with my immediate post-MBA job. I’d had two years at school being indoctrinated in how I could “change lives, change organizations, and change the world,” and had trouble translating that...

  4. 1 Start Here
    (pp. 1-7)

    There is a simple saying in Japanese that epitomizes the nature of striving for excellence,“Ue ni wa ue ga aru.”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.

    Becoming better can take many forms. It is easy to take matters into your own hands when it comes to improving skills like drawing, public speaking, or anything else where practice makes perfect. Advancing your own career, however,...

  5. 2 Creative as Leader
    (pp. 9-25)

    When I meet with politicians around Providence, Rhode Island, where RISD is located, I often ask them if they have any RISD interns working for them. Their reaction is often one of amusement: “No, I have interns from Brown University or Providence College, but not RISD. I don’t need people drawing pictures for me.” I respond with an explanation that the students I see every day at RISD work extremely hard and with unparalleled passion, and that they have a set of unique perspectives that can help any of the politicians communicate to a broader range of their constituents. And...

  6. 3 Technologist as Leader
    (pp. 27-41)

    A leader’s job is to get people on board with his vision—and he’ll try whatever tools are at his disposal to do it. I’ve gone about this leadership challenge in a variety of ways, but I must admit that my strongest influence is my training in information technology from MIT.

    Computers make it so simple to communicate. It’s just as easy to send a hundred messages to a hundred people in different countries as it is to send an e-mail to a single person in the next city. Social media like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter have made it even...

  7. 4 Professor as Leader
    (pp. 43-55)

    One of the many privileges of being a professor, and also a subtle social developmental handicap, is that you get to be your own self. Academic advancement is largely a question of whether you have individually made a significant contribution to your field. As a result, because I was never big on team sports and for most of my life have worked as a professional “lone wolf,” I’m embarrassed to say that I had never felt what it’s like to be on a team.

    Around 2004, my interest was piqued when I learned that the men’s U.S. Olympics basketball team,...

  8. 5 Human as Leader
    (pp. 57-71)

    They say that sometimes leadership is thrust upon you, and I now know that once it is, the responsibility and authority weigh heavily on your shoulders at all times. On one hand, the experience of leading is rewarding because you are in a position to positively enable others. On the other hand, leading often hurts, because the decisions you make can negatively affect a lot more people than just yourself. Being brought into an organization as an agent of change has been a humbling experience in balancing my dreams versus the realities presented, especially the realities presented in the economic...

  9. 6 Thank You
    (pp. 73-78)

    Thank you for staying to the end of this little book. It’s essentially complete with the end of the last chapter, but there are a few tiny parting thoughts I wish to leave with you. Dissecting the experience of leading from the perspectives of an artist/designer, technologist, professor, and plain old human being has allowed me to gain confidence through learning as I go. If anything, I’m readying myself to learn even more from the experiences that lie ahead, and I remain open to the many criticisms that come with each accolade. For nothing can be worse than when my...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 79-80)