The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do | Ken Blanchard & Mark Miller

Main Theme: What Great Leaders Know and Do.
For People Who: Are Interested In Timeless Leadership Principles

Being “the boss” does not make you a leader. While people may follow your title for a short while, eventually those followers will fall aside because they’ll realize you’re not taking them anywhere. They may even come to realize that you, as the boss, are not interested in serving them, but getting them to do what you want, when you want it.  The Secret is a fantastic little fable that follows the leadership development of Debbie Brewster. She is a struggling leader, who sees herself primarily as a “boss” who puts out fires and tells others what to do. But there is a big problem: the numbers for her team are falling and she doesn’t know why. Through a mentor program with the president of the company, Debbie discovers the secret of what great leaders know and do. What Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller demonstrate, in a very simple way, are the incredible, yet basic, principles of leadership worth following.

Great leaders don’t become great in a moment – or in a month or a year. They become great leaders one day at a time throughout their lifetimes. You’ll never finish. –The Secretpg. 29

Debbie Brewster meets with president Jeff Brown and learns that all great leaders must S.E.R.V.E. The bulk of the fable constitutes Jeff’s explanation of this acronym.

S = See the Future

Vision. Vision and leadership go together like peanut butter and jelly. Leaders provide a compelling vision by communicating a picture of a preferred future. Key questions involve:

  • What do I want our organization to accomplish?
  • What do I want to be true in the future that is not true today.

The problem, is that vision leaks. Vision must be communicated over and over again throughout the entire group, team, and organization. The key to creating a compelling vision is discovering your values because your values will shape the future you and your team want to create.

Leadership is about taking people from one place to another. One of a leader’s top priorities must be to assure that the team knows where you are headed. –The Secret, pg. 39

E = Engage and Develop Others

The key word in this practice: PEOPLE. Recruitment and selection of people to join the team is often overlooked by leaders. To create environments where people are wholeheartedly invested in the vision, you need more than just “warm bodies.” Communicating vision begins with the recruiting process. Can you communicate to a potential hire the vision and values of your organization? Do they naturally fit with those values? Once on the team, it is the leaders responsibility to invest in and develop the people on they’ve brought together. Key questions for this practice are:

  • What do engaged people look like in my context?
  • What do my people need to be more engaged?
  • How can I help my people grow – as a group and individually?

You want to do more than enlist their hands – you want to engage their heads and hearts also. –The Secret, pg. 55

R = Reinvent Continuously

Compelling vision. Engagement. Investment. Buy-in. All serve to create healthy environments. But without the constant pursuit of new ideas, your team will grow stagnant. It’s the old adage, “That’s the way we’ve always done it” that kills excitement and progress. Change and improvement are necessary if you want your team to move forward and achieve the vision. Few things kill momentum faster than a team who is ready to embrace change and leader who is not. Key questions in this practice are:

  • As a leader, how do I need to change?
  • What structural changes could we make to accelerate progress?
  • What should my developmental focus be for the coming year?

Great leaders…are always interested in ways to enhance their own knowledge and skills. The very best leaders are learners. –The Secret, pg. 75

V = Value Results and Relationships

Results without relationships breeds frustration. Relationships without results breeds complacency. Great leaders are able to cultivate both. Ultimately, successful leadership involves both people and performance. If either of these values are not produced it will “undermine long-term performance.” (pg. 122) Key questions for this practice involve:

  • What happens if I overvalue results? What happens if I overvalue relationships?
  • Which is my personal bias as a leader – results or relationships?
  • What will be the consequences if I don’t broaden my definition of success?

The way to maximize your results as a leader is to have high expectations for both results and relationships. –The Secret, pg. 84

E = Embody the Values

The important terms to remember in this practice are: trust and credibility. When you embody the values of your team and organization on a consistent basis, your team will learn to trust you. You teach what you know, but you always reproduce who you are. The trust of followers will always erode when they realize the leader has no credibility. Key questions in the practice are:

  • What values or beliefs do I want to drive the behavior of my organization?
  • What values do I most consistently model?
  • What are my actions communicating to my team?

The best teachers are always the those who know they haven’t got it figured out. –The Secret, pg. 113

Ultimately, a leader must ask themselves, “Am I a serving leader or a self-serving leader?” The choice is yours. The vision is for you, the leader, to craft and invite others to journey toward with you, empowering and developing others along the road. “The primary concept is that regardless of their formal title or position, people who want to be great leaders must embrace an attitude of service to others.” (pg. 110)

I found The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Doto be a fantastic story that kept my attention and challenged my leadership. The best is still to be discovered by the reader. So be sure to read the wonderfully engaging leadership fable of Debbie Brewster, and find out more about what great leaders know and do.


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