“The Secret” Is Out … Really

promo_04I 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 ofThe 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: 

share_091)  Vision:  See the Future

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 likeThe 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. 

Guest Post: “Must Wins” by Mark Miller

promo_04Today’s guest post is from Mark Miller, co-author of “The Secret:  What Great Leaders Know and Do”.  This post was originally published on Monday, June 9, 2014 at www.greatleadersserve.org

I’ll have more to say myself about this great anniversary edition, but for now, here’s Mark with some solid leadership thinking …



Have you started working on your 2015 plans for your organization? If not, it’s probably time. Where should you begin? One approach is to determine what’s most critical for your organization to accomplish in the coming years.

I attended a meeting recently in which someone shared the “Must Wins” for their department. After listening for a few minutes, I realized, he was describing what I’ve historically called organizational priorities. His language is far better than mine. To describe something as a “Must Win” gives it importance and urgency.

Here’s a working definition of a “Must Win…”

A statement of strategic intent critical to the health and future success of your organization; substantive enough to require 12 – 60 months of focused attention and deserving of disproportionate time, energy and financial support.

A “Must Win” is not a tactic or a program, nor is it a goal – although there should be metrics established to monitor your progress. It is about closing gaps or seizing opportunities to fundamentally strengthen your organization.

Here are some examples:

1. We must improve our retention among hourly team members.

2. We must meet our quality requirements more consistently.

3. We must establish a successful west coast presence.

4. We must create products and services to reach new customers.

5. We must find new ways to reduce costs across all divisions.

6. We must increase repeat business from our existing customer base.

7. We must develop the business acumen of our people.

8. We must create a leadership culture.

How do you determine what your “Must Wins” should be? That will require a blend of research, hard work, heated debates and a good measure of leadership intuition.

Here are a few questions that may help…

· If a new leadership team took over our organization today, what are the first three things they would do?

· If this new leadership team were creating their 3-year plan, what would they deem most critical?

· If you could eliminate one competitive threat over the next 36 months, what would we choose?

· What could you do to create significant competitive advantage?

· Where are we falling behind our competitors?

· If you were not worried about the difficulty involved, what is the one strategic priority you would certainly embrace?

· What is the most significant gap you need to address over the next 36 months in your organization?

· What should you do if we want to fundamentally strengthen your organization for the next decade?

· If you could only have one strategic initiative for the next 5 years, what would you choose? (You’re certainly not limited to one, but the thought you might be, should force some thoughtful conversations.)

These, and other questions like them, should always be on our mind. Not only are leaders the architects of the future, we set the strategic direction for our organizations. A successful organization cannot do everything – “Must Wins” help us know what we must do.

The future begins today!

clip_image002Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, believes that leadership is not something that’s exclusive; within the grasp of an elite few, but beyond the reach of everyone else.  In the tenth anniversary edition of The Secret, Miller reminds readers of a seemingly contradictory concept: to lead is to serve. With more than 600,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

The 10th anniversary edition of The Secret will be released September 2, 2014.