The Book Corner - Review

“The Secret” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller

The Secret

By Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller
Berrett Koehler, 2009

[powerpress: http://gsbm-med.pepperdine.edu/gbr/audio/summer2011/BookReview_Rhodes.mp3]

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2 stars: Read this book if and when you have the timeIn this second edition of The Secret, Ken Blanchard teams up with Chick-fil-A Vice President Mark Miller to summarize “what great leaders know and do.” Following fictitious character Debbie Brewster through her encounters as a young executive, the authors lay out the two primary components of effective leadership as “doing” and “being,” using Debbie and her company as a sort of case study in which to frame their main points. Debbie’s insights are further developed as she processes what she is learning at work once she gets home with her husband as sounding board and “cheering section.”

In a nutshell, and in keeping with Blanchard’s brief and simplistic writing style, Debbie learns that successful leaders balance the doing/being dichotomy by serving people within the business. Using the acronym “SERVE,” Debbie’s boss, Jeff Brown, President and COO of the fictitious company described in the case, describes what effective leaders do: See the future, Engage and develop others, Reinvent continuously, Value results and relationships, and Embody the values.

In discussing each of these points, the authors discuss the principles behind each and key questions for managers to consider in weighing how to best apply them. Not surprisingly, and without necessarily giving away all “the secrets” laid out in the book, one of the primary messages of this work is that effective leaders know how to build trust across all constituent groups and do so on a daily basis in every part of their decision making.

The book ends with a final discussion on succession and how to “pass the baton” on to a leader who also embodies these characteristics, followed by an appendix, entitled “Debbie’s Secret Notes,” in which she lays her questions and cautions in implementing the concepts into each workday.

As with most of the Blanchard book series, this piece is written as a quick read for busy managers with practical, get-to-the-point objectives. While he clearly does not write for the academic field, most practitioners will likely find Blanchard and Miller’s key points to be effective and helpful if they can figure out a way to put them into practice. On the other hand, his writing style tends be overly simplistic and lacking practical ways to implement such lofty goals in the real world.

While I believe the content of this book to be thought provoking and spot-on in terms of healthy principles to be applied in any organization, I give this book a “2” – read this book if and when you have the time (which, fortunately, is minutes, not hours).

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