Book Buzz:  What Great Leaders Know and Do

Cindi Filer's review of The Secret - What Great Leaders Know and Do, by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller

If you read one book this year - I think it should be this one!  We often wonder why we have issues with our staff, why results aren't happening, and often begin to hate going to work.  I think many of these symptoms could be the result of one problem - a lack of leadership on our parts as CEO'S.  We seem to be trying to fix everyone else, but are we looking in the mirror to make sure we have adequately addressed our leadership?

The Secret's authors are Ken Blanchard (who is the One Minute Manager author) and Mark Miller (who is a Vice President at Chick-Fil-A).  It was originally published 10 years ago.  The story is in the form of a simple allegory - so it's an easy read.  This is the fictional story of Debbie Brewster - a person who has found herself failing in many ways as a leader. A mentor takes her under his wing

and teaches her leadership principles. We see her putting these into practice and seeing results.  Albeit a simplistic story, and undeniably "without the many extraneous situations that we would encounter," the story hits home and makes you think about your own leadership skills and how good you are at leading a team. 

The authors give you a self-assessment at the end of the book - you should take this first!  It will give you a good idea on which skills you need to focus before you read.  The book uses a word (SERVE) to teach leadership skills.  Each letter in the word stands for things that great leaders do. 

  • S - See the Future - They say that "Creating a compelling vision is one of the privileges and most serious demands of leaders."  A couple of questions that intrigue me are: How many members of your team could tell you what the team is trying to become/achieve? How can you communicate your vision of the future to your team?

  • E - Engage and Develop Others - This means many things - among them: choosing the right staff, getting buy-in from them for your company and for you as a leader, and mentoring your staff.  Questions to ask are:  How are you encouraging the development of your people?  And to what extent have you successfully engaged every member of your team?
  • R - Reinvent Continuously - This means having a healthy disrespect for the status quo.  These type of leaders are born learners - they do whatever it takes to keep learning. Also, leaders must work to instill the desire for improvement into the people doing the day-to-day work. 

  • V - Value Results and Relationships - The way to evaluate the effectiveness of a leader is two areas - are they getting results and do they have followers?  The authors talk about being a good listener as a leader, finding out about people's lives outside work, and creating a healthy accountable culture.

  • E - Embody the Values - This includes ensuring there is trust on your team.  I think this part of the book is the most worthwhile.  If we lose our credibility as leaders, our leadership potential will be greatly limited. 

Overall, the authors believe in all aspects that leaders must SERVE the people who work for them to get the best results.  "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."

I think, after working with small business owners for over 20 years, most don't understand this concept. Most have never asked "what can I do for you" to their team.  Most have never thought about how important that it is to the bottom line- that their employees find them "credible and trustworthy".  The few that clearly understand this concept have businesses that everyone wants to work for and they are getting great results.  

Thumbs up!  I recommend this book to all leaders.  It is a great investment of your time to remind yourself what a great leader does when he has been entrusted with great people. 

This book will take 3 hours to read - very easy reading!  You will want to read the whole book.

Read this book - either in one sitting or chopped up - but read it with a notebook - to take down things that you want to change.  Remember to do the test at the end of the book first - so you know how you "measure up" before you start reading.