I.M. Pei passed away in May at the age of 102. Many of you may know a great deal about his life and his work. For me, reading article after article over the past few weeks, made me think of how relevant his wisdom is to the field of leadership.
Pei was born in 1917 in China and came to the United States for architecture school eventually graduating from MIT. He went on to study at Harvard and found mentors in modernism famed for creating entire movements.
From Doha, Quatar to Cleveland, Ohio he transformed landscapes and city scapes with his geometric refinement and intricate attention to form and function. He is best known for his Pyramide addition to the Louvre. While the design was met with much criticism, Time Magazine describes the impact of this work: “What had seemed for generations to be a treacherous labyrinth was suddenly reborn as an open, spacious and serenely rational precinct of high culture that now elevated and enlivened the spirits of all who entered. That achievement by itself will surely suffice to secure I.M. Pei’s place as one of the most eminent architects of the 20th-century.”
Below are some of Pei’s quotes that resonated most as I learned more about his remarkable, dignified leadership style over the past month. After each quote, there is a reflection question to prompt thoughts about your life as a leader if you are so inclined:
Stop worrying about missed opportunities and start looking for new ones.
As a leader, what is one missed opportunity you can let go of today to make room for new doors to swing open?
I want to bring out the best in a community and contribute something of permanent value.
As a leader, what are 5 ways you create community?
Great artists need great clients
As a leader, who are your clients and what actions do you take every day to serve them?
Design is something you have to put your hand to.
As a leader, what three things can you commit to doing every day that show you and others that you are willing to do the work at hand?
How can you judge a work today? What will happen to it 20 or 50 years later? That’s the measure.
As a leader, how to you see your work today as relevant in 25 or 50 years?
Let’s do it right. This is for the ages.
As a leader, what can you do to elevate and enliven all those whose paths you cross?
Pei completed buildings well into his late 80’s. In interviews, he often referenced the transparency of the Louvre Pyramid and how important and difficult it was to achieve, both from a materials, and symbolic perspective.
Transparency changes perceptions of those on the outside looking in, as well as those on the inside looking out. Transparency gracefully dissolves boundaries and walls between the what is real and what is perceived.
In my experience, taking time to reflect on our impact as leaders, enhances our accessibility and therefore transparency. In leadership, as in life, transparency is both a value and an aspiration.