Leadership & “The Secret”

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This blog post is my critique of the book “The Secret” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller (2004) from the standpoint of individual, group and enterprise leadership insights.

Each critique reviews the key message of the book, the high-level concepts, the book’s areas of strengths, and where it falls short. I conclude each critique with an overall assessment ranking (1-10 ascending) of its effectiveness in providing the reader applicable lessons in personal and/or leadership development.

Overview: “The Secret” is an easy to read and short (115 pages) Leadership development book that follows the story of Debbie’s journey to moving from sub-par manager to inspiring leader at work. She works with the CEO of her company on a periodic basis to understand what leadership is and then apply the concepts with her team.

Key Message: The secret is that great leaders serve.

High-level concepts: The SERVE Model (See the future, Engage & develop others, Reinvent continuously, Value results & relationships, and Embody the values)

Areas of Strengths: It’s a feel-good and easy-to-achieve read. I like the CEO character Jeff, who mentors Debbie. He exemplifies the role of leader as coach, guiding Debbie to her own conclusions.

Supplemental Materials: kenblanchard.com (main website); https://www.kenblanchard.com/Solutions/Building-Trust#BTVR (VR training on trust)

Where it Falls Short: The book is too quick on Debbie’s transformation. Moving from a manager to leader takes time and can be a arduous process. The book could incorporate more of the pain points along the way to prepare people wanting to follow suit. The SERVE model also fails to be memorable. See the future is something easy to recall, but there are too many letters in the acronym and each title is too long. In addition, Debbie becomes the head of leadership development at the company as a result of her ‘transformation.’ I believe that this move would not resonate with most readers who don’t want to do that type of work and therefore was an unnecessary inclusion.

Overall Assessment & Why: I rate this piece of work a 6 out of 10 for its positive approach to building individual leaders at work and for its simple structure and easy to read nature. The SERVE model compliments the key message well, but is too ambitious of an acronym (and supporting anecdotes) to be recalled by the average reader.

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