Revisited Post: Pinchot’s 11 Maxims

Originally posted elsewhere on August 22, 2008

I’ve been holding on to this one for a little while. I remember discussing it in graduate school, and I found it on a blog a few months ago. Guilford Pinchot, who served as the first head of the U.S. Forest Service, developed this list while on the faculty at Yale. I find it interesting how this list captures an important element and issue of our profession, finding complexity within simplicity.

Pinchot’s 11 Maxims for Foresters:

1. A public official is there to serve the public and not run them.

2. Public support of acts affecting public rights, is absolutely required.

3. It is more trouble to consult the public than to ignore them, but that is what you are hired for.

4. Find out in advance what the public will stand for. If it is right and they won’t stand for it, postpone action and educate them.

5. Use the press first, last, and all the time if you want to reach the public.

6. Get rid of attitude of personal arrogance or pride of attainment or superior knowledge.

7. Don’t try any sly or foxy politics. A forester is not a politician.

8. Learn tact simply by being absolutely honest and sincere, and by learning to recognize the point of view of the other man and meet him with arguments he will understand.

9. Don’t be afraid to give credit to someone else even when it belongs to you. This is the mark of a weak man, but is the hardest lesson to learn. Encourage others to do things. You may accomplish many things through others that you can’t get done on your single initiative.

10. Don’t be a knocker. Use persuasion rather than force, when possible. [There are] plenty of knockers to be had. Your job is to promote unity.

11. Don’t make enemies unnecessarily and for trivial reasons. If you are any good you will make plenty of them on matters of straight honesty and public policy and will need all the support you can get.


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