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The Secret: What Great Leaders Know -- And Do Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Debbie, the heroine of this insipid business novella, is an archetypal customer relations executive who fails to wring improved performance from her micro-managed and dispirited subordinates. CEO Jeff takes her under his wing to impart the wisdom of "servant leadership" as exemplified by such figures as Jimmy Carter, Spartacus and, most of all, Jesus of Nazareth. Under his mentor, Debbie realizes that a leaders role is to inspire and empower underlings both in the workplace and in their personal lives. She learns to delegate so that she can focus on "vision" and "values." She commits herself to a project of "Reinventing Continuously" and she comes to understand that, since people are essences, not constructs, its better to leverage employees strengths rather than trying to fix their shortcomings; hiring decisions are therefore all-important and should involve no less than four exhaustive interviews. Armed with these principles, Debbie makes a spectacular new hire, gets her team to come up with the slogan "From Worst to First" and enlists them in continuous improvement of the work process. Soon performance skyrockets (exactly how remains somewhat mysterious), garnering Debbie a standing ovation and promotion to head of Leadership Development. Blanchard, co-author of The One Minute Manager, and Miller, an executive at the Chick-fil-A fast food chain, construct a rickety fictional matrix to support their high-minded but rather familiar leadership nostrums. Written in stilted business-school lingo ("Hi Deb! Looks like youre managing by walking around today!"), the narrative and dialogue elements come off as awkward filler that only accentuates the staleness of the truisms on offer.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Publisher
In The Secret, Debbie, a struggling leader finds herself about to lose her job due to poor performance. In a desperate attempt to save her career, she enrolls in a new mentoring program offered by her company. Much to her surprise, Debbie finds her mentor is the president of the company (Jeff Brown).
Debbie decides that all she needs is the answer to one question, "What is the secret of great leaders?" She is convinced that if Jeff will tell her, she can apply the secret in her leadership.
Over the next 18 months Jeff explains to Debbie that the secret is rooted in an attitude. He tells her that she must be willing to become a serving leader rather than a self-serving leader. The secret is that all great leaders serve.
After Debbie learns the secret she still doesnt know what to do next. Jeff explains that great leaders serve in at least five ways. They
See and shape the future
Engage and develop others
Value results and relationships
Embody the values
The story unfolds as Debbie learns and applies each of these imperatives with her team. As a result, Debbies team goes from worst to first. They become the highest performing team within the company.
In the end, Debbie understood that all the changes and improvements were the result of the choices she made as a leader. She realized that to SERVE is a choice. Debbie decided once and for all, she would no longer be a self-serving leader, she would be a serving leader! --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard, Mark Miller. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Third Edition. 155 pages. 2014 edition
I read this book when it was first released, and recently re-read the third (or 10th Anniversary Edition). The book is written as a fictional story (think of Patrick Lencioni’s leadership fables) and follows Debbie Brewster, a leader who has been struggling. As a result, she applies for a new mentoring program at her organization. She is selected to participate, and the mentor she is assigned to is Jeff Brown, the president of the company.
In their first meeting Debbie asks Jeff “What is the secret of great leaders?” He responds that the secret is that great leaders SERVE. The book follows Debbie through her monthly mentoring meetings with Jeff as he takes her through the SERVE model. We see her applying what she has learned in those sessions, and as a result growing as a leader.
The SERVE model is:
S - See the Future.
E – Engage and Develop Others
R - Reinvent Continuously
V - Value Results and Relationships
E - Embody the Values
This quick read communicates helpful messages about being a servant leader via an interesting story about a leader who was struggling. It also includes some helpful resources at the end of the book, including a self-assessment and frequently asked questions. This would be a good book to read in a book club or in a mentoring session.
An updated version of their classic business fable, The Secret captivates the reader through an intriguing narrative centered around the simple but profound secret: “great leaders serve.”
Some of my earliest professional training was based on the writings of Ken Blanchard, and his works continue to both line my shelf and inform my leadership activities.
In much the same way, for the past few years Mark Miller’s writings have been an influential factor in my ongoing leadership development.
With The Secret, the authors have once again crafted a learning device that is not only a pleasure to read but filled with practical helps applicable from the volunteer team leader to the C-suite. In addition to these helps, the self-assessment included at the end of the book is a quick, useful tool to use at both the beginning and end of any mentoring or leadership development program.
Your continual journey as a developing leader developing others will benefit greatly from practicing the “secrets” from The Secret.