Friday, March 20, 2015

The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do

Title:  The Secret:  What Great Leaders Know and Do
Author:  Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller
Publication Information:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2014. 152 pages.
ISBN:  1626561982 / 978-1626561984

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "How can leadership be this hard?"

Favorite Quote:  "I believe we demonstrate our priorities with the way we allocate our resources - and that includes our time."

The Secret that great leaders know and do is that "Great leaders SERVE." What does "serve" mean? That explanation is the focus of this book.

The concept of servant leadership is centuries old. References to the concepts can be found in the Tao Te Ching writings of Lao Tzu, many religious writings, and in the words of leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. The term servant leadership is attributed to Robert Greenleaf, when he wrote an essay titled "The Servant as Leader."

Servant leadership gives recognition two indivisible facets of business leadership - the growth and success of the business and the growth and success of its people. Only by developing and nurturing their people can businesses achieve long lasting success. Servant leadership is about putting in place the relationships that allow individuals to leverage their strengths and to collectively further the goals of the business. These relationship take the form of mentoring, shared power for decisions, and team roles that build on individual goals and strengths.

This book, originally written a decade ago in 1994, presents the idea of servant leadership in an easy and quick to read package. This new edition includes a self-assessment that readers can use as well as a list of resources available through the authors' work in this area.

In the book, Debbie Brewster is the case study. She has had some success in her career and is now a team leader. However, as a team leader, she is floundering. Her team has the worst performance in the company along a variety of metrics. Customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction is sorely lacking, and Debbie is unsure how to remedy the situation. She wants to, but her methods seem to exacerbate the situation rather than improve it.

She applies to join a mentoring program and is shocked to learn that her mentor is the leader of the company. She does not understand how he can take the time from "leading" to be a mentor and why he would want to.

Over the course of several meetings, Jeff leads her through the SERVE concept, helping her leverage her own strengths to discover her way to effective leadership. In between the meetings, Debbie attempts to apply the paradigm to her own team with astonishing results. Their current results are "worst;" their collective, shared goal becomes from "worst to best."

The ideas of the book are not new, but the book effectively packages them into a clear vision. It can be read in one sitting and easily understood. The implementation of the ideas, of course, is up to the individual, but the theory itself is simple and cohesive. It is to see or envision the future, to engage others in a shared vision, to reinvent personally and organizationally, to value results and relationships, and, finally, to embody the values - to "walk the walk" if you will.

While written for a business audience, the approach can certainly be applied in other parts of your life as well. All our relationships can benefit from the idea of shared beliefs, shared goals, and opportunities for individual strengths to shine.

As the book suggests, ask yourself, "Am I a self-serving leader of a serving leader?" Read the book and the periodically revisit it as a reminder or recheck. I know I will. This book will find a place on my bookshelf and be reread.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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