Redesigning Leadership

From Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

Redesigning Leadership

By John Maeda

With Rebecca J Bermont

Lessons for a new generation of leaders on teamwork, meetings, conversations, free food, social media, apologizing, and other topics.





Lessons for a new generation of leaders on teamwork, meetings, conversations, free food, social media, apologizing, and other topics.

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.


$21.95 T ISBN: 9780262015882 96 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 14 b&w illus.


Rebecca J Bermont.


  • Redesigning Leadership is a gem of a book, and like a genuine gem is compact, short, succinct and a pleasure to read.

    Mohsen Shahmanesh

    Design Talks

  • It's short, beautifully designed and produced...There's none of the usual guff that afflicts the genre. Intead, clear crisp prose, a lot of common sense, and some points that were either new to me or worth reaffirming.

    The Enlightened Economist


  • John Maeda adroitly separates and then blends perspectives on leadership—macro and micro, personal and institutional, familial and cultural—finding the connectivity among each. Whether you're a seasoned leader or just beginning to learn what leadership means, this book will help clarify what it means to you, to effectively lead others.

    Will Setliff

    Vice President of Marketing, Target

  • John Maeda is one of the most insightful thinkers on creativity and innovation in America. Plainspoken but playful, Redesigning Leadership offers Maeda's unique take on creative leadership.

    Roger Martin

    Dean, Rotman School of Management

  • John Maeda's roots as the son of an immigrant Japanese family, his visionary work in technology and design, and now his leadership of some of the most talented young people of this generation at RISD, give him a unique set of skills to lead. Redesigning Leadership is an important personal diary on the art, science and humanity of inspiration.

    John C. Jay

    Global Executive Creative Director, Wieden + Kennedy

  • No one but John Maeda can give us the secrets of simplicity and the power that comes through simply leading. This is a contemporary leader's handbook.

    Beth Comstock

    Chief Marketing Officer, GE