Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller has had a significant impact on the American workplace. This innovative company is credited with inventing the cubicle. They are also known for being a pioneer in modern furniture including my favorite — the Aeron chair. Max De Pree, son of the founder, served as CEO of the company in the 1980s and now runs the Max De Pree Center for Leadership. His bestselling book, Leadership Is An Art, is one of my favorite books on leadership. He notes that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality and the last responsibility is to say thank you. He says, “In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.” De Pree makes an important point that the signs of outstanding leadership primarily appear among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential, learning, serving and achieving their desired results?
I recently visited with Jamie Chustz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Mattiace Company, who exhibits the type leadership characteristics that De Pree describes. A native of Jackson, Chustz grew up in a household with two strong leadership-oriented parents. He went on to get a double major at Mississippi State University in real estate and finance, and later earned his MBA from Millsaps College. Chustz has spent his career in the real estate industry. He worked for Parkway Properties for a number of years serving in a number of leadership positions and managing assets for the company throughout the Southeast. Parkway was a high-performance company, and Chustz learned a great deal about the industry and effective execution in business. In 2009, he made a major change to open his own real estate firm — Highland Group, LLC, where he teamed with well-known landscape architect and developer Mark Jordan. Despite a challenging real estate market, Chustz’s business thrived as he provided commercial brokerage and real estate consulting services to numerous clients. Andrew Mattiace, the founder of The Mattiace Company and a very successful real estate developer, recognized Chustz’s abilities, and enticed him to join his firm to serve in his current role.
Chustz’s noted, “I have been very blessed in my life to be surrounded by great leaders to learn from including my parents and my wife.” He was a competitive athlete particularly in basketball and tennis and credits these experiences in molding his leadership philosophies. He noted, “I recognized the importance of teamwork and working towards common goals.” Chustz’ emphasized, “I have observed that the most effective leaders are servant-oriented and lead by example. I have tried to emulate that in the leadership positions I have served.” Chustz will have significant opportunities to leverage his expertise in his new job. The Mattiace Company has consistently been a high-performing real estate development firm in both Mississippi and the Southeast and has developed over five million square feet of office and retail properties since its inception. In addition to his duties at work, Chustz is actively engaged as a leader in the community. He is the community service chair for the Rotary Club of Jackson, and he is also the board chairman for the Make-A Wish Foundation of Mississippi. He shared that Make-A-Wish under the leadership of CEO Kit Barksdale has achieved significant results and been recognized nationally for its efforts.
Max De Pree concluded, “Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice.” Leaders like Chustz understand this and try to live out this art daily as they practice servant oriented leadership and challenge their team to achieve extraordinary results.