The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do / Edition 3

The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do / Edition 3

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers


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The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do / Edition 3

In this new edition of their classic business fable, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller get at the heart of what makes a leader successful. Newly promoted but struggling young executive Debbie Brewster asks her mentor the one question she desperately needs answered: “What is the secret of great leaders?” His reply—“great leaders serve”—flummoxes her, but over time he reveals the five fundamental ways that leaders succeed through service. Along the way she learns:

• Why great leaders seem preoccupied with the future
• How people on the team ultimately determine your success or failure
• What three arenas require continuous improvement
• Why true success in leadership has two essential components
• How to knowingly strengthen—or unwittingly destroy—leadership credibility

The tenth anniversary edition includes a leadership self-assessment so readers can measure to what extent they lead by serving and where they can improve. The authors also have added answers to the most frequently asked questions about how to apply the SERVE model in the real world.

As practical as it is uplifting, The Secret shares Blanchard’s and Miller’s wisdom about leadership in a form that anyone can easily understand and implement. This book will benefit not only those who read it but also the people who look to them for guidance and the organizations they serve.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626561984
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 09/02/2014
Series: Ken Blanchard (Hardcover) Series
Edition description: Third Edition
Pages: 152
Sales rank: 153,684
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ken Blanchard is founder and chief spiritual officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies and is one of the world's most prominent authors, speakers, and consultants. He is the author or coauthor of more than sixty books.
Mark Miller is currently serving as vice president, organizational effectiveness, at Chick-fil-A, Inc. He is also the author of The Heart of Leadership, The Secret of Teams, and, with Ken Blanchard, Great Leaders Grow. His blog,, is rated as one of the top leadership sites in the world.

Read an Excerpt

The Secret

What Great Leaders Know and Do

By Ken Blanchard, Mark Miller

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Blanchard Family Partnership and Mark Miller
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62656-200-4


The Opportunity

How can leadership be this hard? One year ago today was the happiest day of my life. I had arrived! Only four years out of college, and my company had moved me into a leadership position: director of corporate client services for the southeast sales region. I knew I could handle the job, because I'd started from our catalog call center, fielding customer requests and complaints. Then I was promoted to a project manager, working closely with sales and our corporate clients. Whatever the salespeople promised our customers, I delivered. And if I do say so myself, I was good at getting our corporate clients what they needed, when and where they needed it. I got all kinds of kudos for developing outstanding relationships with clients. I was sure I could make my staff do the same.

A year ago, I was on top of the world. Today, I'm holding on for dear life and might lose my job. What happened? What went wrong?

With those thoughts, Debbie Brewster pulled into the parking lot at the public library. She knew she could never have an uninterrupted day in the office. Besides, her boss had always encouraged her to take some time every month to step back and Assess what had happened, Affirm what was working, and make Adjustments as needed. She had always been too busy to actually try it, but today was different. Drastic times demand drastic measures.

As Debbie entered the library, her mind flashed back to long-forgotten memories from her less-than-stellar educational career. The musty smell of the old volumes was as strong as ever. The lighting was about the same—a bit too dark. That had never made much sense to her. Why aren't libraries better lit?

Debbie approached the librarian and said, "Hi, I'm looking for a place to work. Somewhere with ample light, if that's possible."

"Certainly," the woman said with a smile. "Are there any particular resources you'll need today?"

"No, but thanks anyway. I just need a quiet place to work for a few hours. I have a few business issues that I need to resolve."

"Let me know if you need any help," the librarian offered. She escorted Debbie to a table in a quiet corner with two large windows on each side.

Debbie took a seat, pulled out her laptop and began. First, I need to get a firm grip on my current situation. Then I'll try to determine how I got into this mess.

Current Situation

Feedback from
Worst among all
salespeople 7 sales regions
Worst among all
satisfaction 7 sales regions
Profit contribution Below goal
Cost management
At goal
Significantly below
satisfaction where it was when

I took over the team.
I've lost 4 out of 10 team
members in less than
a year. This feels like
an issue.

Okay, that's where we are today. How did things get so bad, so fast? She thought back over the previous twelve months. Which events might have contributed to her team's current lackluster performance?

Key Events

June 1
I am appointed as team leader.

June 15
First team meeting; conflict
over changes I wanted the team
to implement.

Selected Bob—new to the
company—poor decision.

Cut expenses to improve

Two new hires: Brenda—good
fit; Charles—wait and see.

Lost one important client due
to poor service from our people.

Bob terminated. Team seems
very disengaged.

Year-end results reflect
significant drop in team
performance versus previous

Performance reviews with each
member of the team. Every
team member is challenged to

"step up or step out."

Lost two more clients—same
reason as before.

Team meetings canceled until
further notice. Focus on
improving results.

Wow! No wonder it was a bad year. Look at all the stuff that happened. Unfortunately, I don't think "stuff just happened" is the insight I need to turn things around.

Debbie's somber thought was interrupted by the librarian. "How's your work going? Getting everything done?"

"Not exactly. I've reviewed the current situation, but I don't know where to go from here," Debbie admitted.

"Maybe I can help," the librarian said.

Debbie was amused by the comment but tried not to show it. "Well, thank you, but I'm not sure you could. It's a complex problem."

"Oh, I didn't mean that I could personally help you solve your problem," the woman responded patiently. "However, we do have quite a few resources about business at our disposal. What is the problem you're trying to solve?"

"In our company, we often refer to problems as opportunities," Debbie explained.

"Okay, what's the opportunity?" the woman said with a smile as she continued to probe.

"I think I could sum it up by saying that I have an opportunity to improve the performance of my team."

"Do you know what's causing the performance issues?"

Debbie paused. "I'm not sure. I listed all the key events from the last year and several things that could have contributed, but—"

"But what?" the woman asked.

"I get this sinking feeling that I may be a significant part of the problem. I've only been the team leader for about a year, and I have no prior training or experience." Debbie thought, I can't believe I'm baring my soul to the librarian.

"We've got quite a few resources on leadership development," the librarian offered.

"Leadership development," Debbie repeated.

"Yes," said the librarian, "you said you might be part of the problem."

"I think I said I might be a contributing factor, but the real issue is performance." Debbie could feel herself getting defensive. It was one thing to admit she might be part of the problem. It had a different ring to it when she heard someone else say it.

The librarian stepped back. "Okay, I'll leave you alone to work on it yourself."

As the woman walked away, Debbie reconsidered. Maybe there are some new leadership tricks I can learn. What could she lose at this point? Only her job and her dream. "Wait!" she called out. "I'm sorry. I was a bit defensive. I've been under a lot of pressure."

The woman turned back with an understanding smile. "It's okay."

"Where are those resources that you mentioned?" Debbie asked, relieved that the librarian was still willing to help.

"Follow me." The librarian led Debbie to a nearby computer, and together they scrolled through the listings, which included titles such as these:

The Power of 360-Degree Feedback

Development Plans That Work

Leaders Mentoring Leaders

What Do Leaders Do?

Debbie began to see something as they scrolled from screen to screen. The word mentoring was repeated several times; in fact, it was repeated on almost every screen she viewed. Then it hit her!

"Excuse me," she said.

She went back to her laptop and opened her e-mail. She was sure she had seen a message that had something to do with mentoring. It read:

Send to: All Supervisors and Managers

From: Melissa Arnold

Subject: Mentoring Opportunities

Date: May 23

As outlined in our annual plan, we indicated that assisting the current and next generation of leaders would be one of our top priorities for this year and for years to come. We believe that one way we can assist our emerging leaders is to establish a formal mentoring program within the organization. We want to be very clear that this program is optional. Any of you who wish to participate need to submit an application to me before June 1.

If you would like additional information about the program, there will be a "Lunch and Learn" on Friday, May 28, in the fourth floor conference room from 12:15 until 1 P.M. Bring your own lunch.

This could be the ticket, Debbie thought. Tm sure a mentor from within the company would help solve the issues in my area. My mentor will probably be able to diagnose the problem and tell me how to fix it in a meeting or two. Besides, it might even look good in my personnel file to say that I was mentored by an executive.

An alarm went off in Debbie's mind: Today is the 28th! I've missed the informational meeting. But if I leave now, I can go by the office and pick up one of those applications, fill it out this weekend, and submit it Monday morning before the deadline.

Debbie gathered her things and headed for the library exit. "Thanks for your help," she called to the librarian on her way out.

"Any time," the woman replied with a smile. "Good luck!"


The Meeting

The following Saturday, Debbie's husband, John, invited her to play tennis with friends, but she bowed out so that she could work on the mentorship application.

"Thanks for the invite, honey, but I don't want to miss the Monday deadline on this paperwork," she said. The application contained all the usual demographic questions but didn't stop there. There were quite a few personal questions and several unexpectedly challenging ones about why she wanted to be in the program. The final question was the one that made her really stop and think.

What is a leader?

Debbie suspected that a good answer to this simple, straightforward question would help her get into the program. She worked for quite some time trying to articulate her reply. She felt she should know the answer because being a leader had long been her primary career objective. Yet she had never given the meaning of leadership much thought. Her first few attempts were, by her own standards, awkward or simplistic:

A leader is the person in charge.

A leader is the person in the position that others report to.

A leader is a person who makes things happen.

Although Debbie believed there was truth in each of these, she was not satisfied. She had an uneasy feeling that there was a correct answer, but she didn't have a clue what it was. It was the same feeling she'd had when it first occurred to her that she might actually be part of her team's performance problems.

Nonetheless, it was getting late, and the application needed to be submitted the next morning. Still uncertain, she finally wrote these words:

A leader is a person in a position of authority who is responsible for the results of those under his or her direction.

* * *

Early Monday morning, Debbie headed straight to Human Resources with her application in hand. She was surprised but pleased to be greeted by the department director, Melissa Arnold.

"Hi, I'm Debbie Brewster, the director of corporate client services from the southeast sales region," she said, extending a hand.

"Yes, Debbie. It's good to see you again," Melissa replied as she shook her hand. "I believe we met at the company picnic a couple of years ago. Do you and your husband still play golf?"

Debbie was amazed. She didn't even remember the picnic from two years ago, let alone meeting Melissa there. How ... no, why did she remember me or that John and I play golf? I don't even know what my team members do when they're not at work, much less remember their spouses' interests.

"You've got a good memory! Yes, we do still play, although not as much as we used to before I became a team leader. It seems as though I don't have as much time these days."

"What brings you to Human Resources so early on a Monday morning?" Melissa asked.

"I want to submit my application for the mentoring program," Debbie explained.

"Great! Any particular area you're needing help with?"

"No, I just think that at this point in my career, I could use a fresh set of eyes to look at my team's performance."

Melissa frowned. "Our program is not set up as a consulting arrangement. Its focus is more on the individual leader and your development. Maybe you need someone from our internal consulting division—"

"No," Debbie interrupted. "I guess I could have stated it better. I need some help. My first year in leadership has been much more difficult than I thought it would be. I think a mentor could help."

"Okay, we'll process your application and see if we can find a good fit. You'll get an e-mail in two weeks advising you whether you have been selected to participate in this phase of the program. If you're in, we'll let you know who your mentor will be."

Debbie felt hopeful. "Sounds great. Thank you for your time."

"My pleasure. I'm here to serve. Let me know if I can help in the future."

How odd that she would say her role is to serve, Debbie thought as she left. For goodness sakes, she's the head of Human Resources. Someone had better tell her that her role is to lead.

When Debbie got back to her office, she was immediately reminded of why she needed a mentor. She felt like a firefighter, running from one burning house to another. She knew she should probably be the fire chief calling out orders for her staff to execute, but she realized time and time again that she was the one fighting the fires. Often, her staff would simply bring her the burning issue and step back and let her take care of it. This was the reason why she had less time to play golf. She did her staff's work during the day, and she did her own work on nights and weekends. It was clearly not a sustainable life.

The next two weeks passed in a blur as Debbie waited for word about the mentoring program. The actual situations changed, but it seemed her role never varied. The work—or the way she was going about it—was killing her. When she got home one night, exhausted and frustrated, John made a comment.

"Something's wrong. What is it?" he asked.

Debbie sighed. "I'm just beginning to wonder if I've pursued the wrong dream. Maybe leadership isn't for me."

"You're getting that mentor pretty soon, right?" Her husband put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"I hope so," Debbie replied. Deep inside, she knew that her future would depend on it.

* * *

On the morning she expected word about the mentoring program, Debbie checked her e-mail. No message. She braced for a long, anxious day waiting for the message. But soon she was so involved in solving other people's problems that she had no time to worry about the much-anticipated e-mail.

At lunchtime, Brenda, one of her team members, approached Debbie in the coffee room.

"Can I talk to you about a personal issue?" Brenda asked.

Debbie had noticed that Brenda's performance had slipped somewhat in recent weeks, but she had not taken the time to find out why. She certainly didn't have time now to talk about personal matters.

"I'm sorry, Brenda, maybe later. I'm busy right now." It never crossed Debbie's mind that Brenda's performance and her personal problem could be related. Debbie went into her office and closed the door. As she scanned her new messages, she spotted an e-mail from Melissa. She opened it and read:

Send to: Debbie Brewster

From: Melissa Arnold

Subject: Mentoring Program

Date: June 14

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to participate in Phase I of our new Mentoring Program. Your mentor will be Jeff Brown. Someone from Jeff's office will contact you to schedule your first meeting. If you have questions, please let me know.

Debbie thought her heart had stopped. Surely there must be a mistake. Jeff Brown is the president of the company! There is no way he could be my mentor.

She picked up the phone and placed a call to Melissa Arnold's office. Melissa's assistant answered the phone.

"This is Todd. How may I serve you?"

"I'm calling for Melissa Arnold. Is she in?"

"No, I'm sorry, she's at lunch right now. What can I do for you?"

"Nothing, really," Debbie answered. "I've just been accepted in the new mentoring program, and there's been a mistake regarding my mentor."

"Let me check that for you. What is your name?"

"Debbie Brewster."


Excerpted from The Secret by Ken Blanchard, Mark Miller. Copyright © 2014 Blanchard Family Partnership and Mark Miller. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword by John Maxwell
The Opportunity
The Meeting
The Secret
A Different Approach
Where Are You Going?
What's Most Important?
An Engaging Conversation
An Insight with Impact
How Can It Be Better?
What Is Success?
How's Your Credibility?
Serving Leaders
Let's Review
Passing the Baton
Debbie's Secret Notes
Self-Assessment: Are You a Serving Leader?
Frequently Asked Questions
About the Authors
Services Available

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4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Leaders are great service people- the idea of the leadership through service is hard for many managers to understand. Once people realize the goal is to lead not to manage people. Once again Blanchard stirs the mind and touches the heart of the matter and the reader.
StrategicLearner More than 1 year ago
I like a good story, with realistic characters, a logical plot, and a thoughtful message … which is why I really enjoyed reading the 10th Anniversary edition of “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller . . .  Now, let’s be clear … this title will never become a Hollywood blockbuster.  On the other hand, this would make a GREAT training film as part of an effective leadership development program in any organization. If you are familiar with Blanchard and Miller’s other works, both individually and as co-authors, you know their style leans to short, easy-to-read, narrative style books which are deceptively simple-appearing.  However, their work is always engaging and useful … if you are serious about considering your own leadership and how you might become a better leader. Here’s my interpretation of the secret of “The Secret”:    Leaders Serve … The book provides a reality-based scenario of Debbie Brewster’s learning journey as she slowly learns that basic fact about leading others.  I suspect many of us started out more like Debbie in our perception of leadership than we might like to admit.   She goes from a leadership perspective that involves a focus on herself to where her focus is on others … those she serves … her team. Debbie learns, as we do along with her, that leadership is about serving others.  Five core components create the focus for servant leadership:  1)   See the Future 2)  People:  Engage and Develop Others 3)  Improvement:  Reinvent Continuously 4)  Success:  Value Results and Relationships 5) Credibility:  Embody the Values   These are not unique or new concepts.  If you are a student and practitioner of leadership, you have seen this all before. However, this book provides insight into them in a very down-to-earth and easily understandable fashion.  Other authors take hundreds and hundreds of pages loaded with technical terms and convoluted illustrations, often at a mega-level beyond the reality of many of us, to say what Blanchard and Miller do simply, quickly, and effectively. One quibble:  I am not a big fan of titles like “The Secret”, simply because they imply something mysterious  and difficult to learn … this book is anything but mysterious or difficult. That said, here are three quick observations about some value-added features in this book: 1)  Debbie has to learn about servant leadership in small doses and take notes along the way … Lucky for you that her notes, neatly organized and including only the essentials are available in the back of the book.  She did the work and you get the benefit.  These are “Debbie’s Secret Notes”, so you know they are extra special and valuable. 2)  Debbie’s leadership journey takes months, but you can read this book the first time in one rainy afternoon … Everything is in easily understood language. 3) A Self-Assessment is also included for your use and continued consideration … You probably already know where you are with becoming a servant leader, but this simple assessment based on the five core components walks you through the details of how they are lived out.  It serves as both an excellent reinforcement of the concepts in the book and as a measure of where you are at a point.  You will want to revisit this section from time to time, both as a quick refresher and to see how you are growing. You DO want to become a better leader who serves, right? …
RaggedyJaney More than 1 year ago
Here’s one thing I loved immediately about this book. It is business wisdom told through a story. I read a lot of books, 95% of them being non-fiction. The Secret book promo I rarely read novels, but opening up a book by co-authors Mark Miller and Ken Blanchard provides the substance of a factual learning tool, presented with the appeal of a story we can all relate to. Meet Debbie Brewster, an executive in search of becoming a great leader. As a participant in a mentoring program Debbie quickly learns that there’s a huge disparity between her interpretation of ‘great leadership’ and the secret of ‘great leadership’ as revealed through her experiences. Debbie had a burning question: What is the secret of great leaders? Her mentor didn’t answer directly, but instead coached her through a series of learning exercises, the first one structured around seeking ways that she, as a manager, could serve her team. That caught Debbie by surprise, but she followed the advice of her mentor and learned that leaders must continuously as themselves: Am I a self-serving leader or a serving leader? The secret of great leaders is that they serve others; they listen well, they look for opportunities to act and serve. A good point to instill in the minds of leaders is this: “A person can serve without leading, but a leader can’t lead well without serving”. One of the cool things about this book is that it takes real life situations, things we all encounter in the workplace, then using a narrative storyline we learn along Debbie as she is guided to solutions for issues we can identify with; things like decision making and team dynamics. When Debbie first assumed her leadership position she came to it with the idea that leadership was all about a level on the org chart. To illustrate how leadership is not positional, her mentor used a picture of an iceberg. The tip above water represented skills (doing) while the part underneath that was unseen stood for character (being). It wasn’t really an ‘aha’ moment for Debbie but she began to grasp the concept of how important it was to operate from a foundation of sound character, solid values, and have the mindset of serving. You may have guessed the secret sauce of great leadership by now, but let’s take this a step further. A one point Debbie was struggling with how to serve. The recommendation from her mentor? Keep a list of all the ways she served those she lead – big ways and small ways. This way she was able to piece together how actions are related to service, or maybe self-service, which Debbie and her mentor discussed during coaching sessions. This book is one of those books that was hard to put down, rare for a business book; a treasure trove of best practices that will transform your idea of leadership and in the process reinforce even the most tenuous of relationships with those you lead and even those who lead you. You can read the book in a weekend and trust me on this – you can start to apply it on Monday. At the end of the story, the authors provide a short review chapter and, for the brave who want to start their transformation, a self-assessment questionnaire. In case you’re the type who always wants to know more there is a Frequently Asked Questions chapter as well. You can’t really go wrong with this book. It’s non-fiction, it's a novel, it’s a leadership manual, it’s a field guide for leaders of all caliber. 
iReadSN More than 1 year ago
This book was suggested to me by a well-respected female leader at my company who I have come to really admire. She stated that it would be a quick and easy read and that it was. I now know The Secret and will recommend this book as well as the SERVE philosophy to anyone else aspiring to be a great leader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peggy Strong More than 1 year ago
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
With more than 20 million copies of his books in print, One-Minute Manager author Ken Blanchard is one of the world's most popular business authors. You will immediately understand why after you read this inspirational business novel that he wrote with Mark Miller, training and development vice president of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain. They tell the fictional, motivational story of Debbie Brewster, a newly appointed manager of corporate client services for a division of her company. As the narrative opens, Brewster is down for the count and sprawled out on the canvas. Her business unit is the company's worst and she's failing miserably as a leader. She worries that she will lose her job, but the firm's president becomes her mentor and gives her a crash course on leadership. He's a savvy leader and she is an apt pupil. He walks her through the "SERVE" leadership model and brings the reader along. You'll feel the uplift as the book closes with Brewster's staff cheering her as she moves up to a new executive position. getAbstract warmly recommends this short, nicely written parable on the meaning of leadership.
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