Max De Pree was an American businessman and writer. He served his country in World War II as part of the Army Medical Corp. His most famous piece of writing, the book Leadership is an Art, has sold an astounding 800,000 copies.
De Pree is well known for his “inclusive corporation” in which all voices are heard in the company and for his invention of the “silver parachute” concept of termination benefits. Previously, businesses preferred the so-called golden parachute style wherein employees received a pre-agreed upon termination package. The silver parachute bases its compensation on the length of time an employee served the company, as long as the employee served more than two years.
Being a writer, De Pree had much to say about business during his lifetime, but perhaps one of his most well-known statements about leadership is “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
This quote speaks to his inclusive corporation philosophy and his efforts to create what some call a “caring corporation” in which a business aligns its will for financial success with the care of its employees.
De Pree inherited the CEO position of Herman Miller furniture company from his brother Hugh De Pree who had taken over for the founder and their father, D. J. De Pree.