I like a good story, with realistic characters, a logical plot, and a thoughtful message … which is why I really enjoyed reading the 10th Anniversary edition of “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller . . .
Now, let’s be clear … this title will never become a Hollywood blockbuster. It has no explosions, no sex, no superhuman stunts. All you get for your money is solid writing with crisp dialogue about situations familiar to most of us with a satisfying story about one person’s ability to become a more effective leader by serving others.
On the other hand, this would make a GREAT training film as part of an effective leadership development program in any organization.
If you are familiar with Blanchard and Miller’s other works, both individually and as co-authors, you know their style leans to short, easy-to-read, narrative style books which are deceptively simple-appearing. However, their work is always engaging and useful … if you are serious about considering your own leadership and how you might become a better leader.
At the risk of spoiling the surprise, here’s my interpretation of the secret of “The Secret”:
Leaders Serve … That’s pretty much the gist
The book provides a reality-based scenario of Debbie Brewster’s learning journey as she slowly learns that basic fact about leading others. I suspect many of us started out more like Debbie in our perception of leadership than we might like to admit. She goes from a leadership perspective that involves a focus on herself to where her focus is on others … those she serves … her team.
Debbie learns, as we do along with her, that leadership is about serving others. Five core components create the focus for servant leadership:
2) People: Engage and Develop Others
3) Improvement: Reinvent Continuously
4) Success: Value Results and Relationships
5) Credibility: Embody the Values
These are not unique or new concepts. If you are a student and practitioner of leadership, you have seen this all before.
However, this book provides insight into them in a very down-to-earth and easily understandable fashion. Other authors take hundreds and hundreds of pages loaded with technical terms and convoluted illustrations, often at a mega-level beyond the reality of many of us, to say what Blanchard and Miller do simply, quickly, and effectively.
One quibble: I am not a big fan of titles like “The Secret”, simply because they imply something mysterious and difficult to learn … this book is anything but mysterious or difficult.
That said, here are three quick observations about some value-added features in this book:
1) Debbie has to learn about servant leadership in small doses and take notes along the way …
Lucky for you that her notes, neatly organized and including only the essentials are available in the back of the book. She did the work and you get the benefit. These are “Debbie’s Secret Notes”, so you know they are extra special and valuable.
OK, that was a little sarcastic, but the point remains that you have the core learning of two very accomplished leaders in one simple and straight-forward document. This one is worth copying and posting somewhere you will often see it and be reminded of the five core components.
2) Debbie’s leadership journey takes months, but you can read this book the first time in one rainy afternoon …
This is not one of those weighty and academic books, that require long periods of reading and reflection, along with sometimes needing to Google the terms and concepts used to illustrate the points. Everything is in easily understood language.
NOTE: Observe that I said “first time” when referring to reading. This book is worth revisiting every so often, even though you know how it all ends after the first time through.
3) A Self-Assessment is also included for your use and continued consideration …
You probably already know where you are with becoming a servant leader, but this simple assessment based on the five core components walks you through the details of how they are lived out. It serves as both an excellent reinforcement of the concepts in the book and as a measure of where you are at a point. You will want to revisit this section from time to time, both as a quick refresher and to see how you are growing.
You DO want to become a better leader who serves, right? …
Enjoying another great addition to my leadership learning library in the Heartland ….
For much more about this book and the two authors, check out The Secret.
Ken Blanchard is founder and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, an international management training and consulting firm that he and his wife, Margie Blanchard, began in 1979 in San Diego, California. He is one of the world’s most prominent authors, speakers, and consultants and is the author or coauthor of more than sixty books.
Dr. Blanchard is universally characterized by his friends, colleagues, and clients as one of the most insightful, powerful, and compassionate individuals in business today.
Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and is respected for his years of groundbreaking work in the fields of leadership and management.
Mark began his Chick-fil-A career working as an hourly team member in 1977. Since that time, he has provided leadership for Corporate Communications, Field Operations, Quality and Customer Satisfaction, Training and Development, and today he serves as the Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness.
During his time with Chick-fil-A, annual sales have grown to over $4 billion. Mark began writing about a decade ago. Today, almost 400,000 copies of The Secret are in print, and it has been translated into more than 20 languages.
Recently, he released The Heart Of Leadership which further explores leadership character and reveals the five habits leaders need to develop. His blog, Great Leaders Serve, is rated as one of the top leadership sites in the world.
Regular Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book prior to publication for review purposes. It would take a lot more than a free book (of which I have many) to influence my opinion. Feel free to be slightly jealous if you did not receive a free book, but reflect that if you use the learning in this book, you will regain your purchase price many times over.