The Leader Who Had No Title

So, at the beginning of the new year, you see all kinds of posts to help you succeed in your resolutions. Lose more weight! Have more friends! Be more successful! There is a cool web tool out there called where people can curate content across the Web into an online newspaper. I subscribe to about 10 educational papers and receive updates in my box daily. One of them. I don’t remember which one, started sharing heavily information from leadership expert, Robin Sharma. Robin, it seems, was telling me and everyone else that this could be our “Best Year Yet.” There were inspirational videos that drew you in…They told you this was the year for big change, if you just focused, reached deep inside of you, took time in the morning for you–to read, think, develop. Indeed, you should even focus on spending money to develop you. That’s when the third video came out and said, “To see this video, you need to commit to this wonderful program, and drop a huge wad of money to unlock the secrets of success.” I appreciate it Mr. Sharma, but I don’t have THAT much money, and I’m sure there are other resources out there.

So, I went to my favorite resource: The Penn State Libraries. I searched out all of Mr. Sharma’s books, and there weren’t many. They did have one, however, “The Leader Who Had No Title,” and for grins, I marked that “I wanted it” and had it delivered to my office. The funny thing about Penn State Library books is that they aren’t in all the flashy bindings like you see at book stores. Rather the books are usually all naked in subdued covers of plain black, red, or  blue. This one came in simple blue.

I had read some reviews on it from GoodReads and Amazon, and the reviews were mixed. Some claimed that this was a transformational book. Others claimed it was silly, corny, even unbelievable, and I took these reviews to heart. If I didn’t, I probably would have said the same thing because it was silly, corny, and unbelievable. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to pay for it.

The book is supposed to be a sort of parable about how this young man who lost his parents when he was young, went to war, came back, lost his way, finds inspiration in an old family friend/co-worker. This friend/coworker introduces him to four people who share wisdom about how to lead an insanely happy and satisfying life even if you don’t have a “title.” Each person has personal tales, and special strategies, all wrapped in handy acronyms that give the young man the tools to go out and conquer the world. Yes. I said it was a little unbelievable and corny, too. And I probably wouldn’t believe it, myself, if I didn’t see one close friend that I know, who is walking mostly the same path of this book. And I know he didn’t read it, because he never reads books. So, let me summarize the strategies.

The First Leadership Conversation: You Need No Title to Be a Leader

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” — Alice Walker

The acronym: IMAGE

  • I: Innovate. Ask yourself, “What can I improve to make today better than yesterday?” “What can I do to be the opposite of ordinary?”
  • M: Mastery. It takes 10,000 hours (or 10 years) to become an expert at something. Be so good that people can’t ignore you.
  • A: Authenticity. Do you feel safe enough and trust yourself enough to work under your values, express your own voice, recognize and celebrate your full potential? Are you true to your own talents?
  • G: Guts. Are you unrealistically persistent and wildly courageous? Are you constantly leaving the valley of comfort? Do people try to tear you down?
  • E: Ethics. Stay consistent with your values. Be honest. Be humble.

Another important concept: The Daily 5: Perform five small focused acts every day to get you closer to your most important goals.

The Second Leadership Conversation: Turbulent Times Build Great Leaders

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” — Neale Donald Walsch

The acronym:  SPARK

  • S: Speak with Candor. Tell the truth. State how things really are. Don’t sugarcoat or lie. “An organization that has a culture where everyone’s afraid to speak candidly is a place where people live among delusion and fantasy.” (p.111) Watch every word you use, and when you say something, say it with respect.
  • P: Prioritize. “Leadership is about knowing very little about most things and a staggering amount about a few things.” (p. 115) Focus. Focus. Focus.
  • A: Adversity Breeds Opportunity. “Every setback carries with it an even greater opportunity.” (p. 119) Don’t allow the opinions of others get to you and keep moving forward to your goal. Be persistent. Be patient.
  • R: Respond versus React. Don’t react to challenges; respond to them. Be the source of the solution.
  • K: Kudos for Everyone. People need to be appreciated. Inspire and uplift in a world that too often celebrates the worst of things. (p. 124)

The Third Leadership Conversation: The Deeper Your Relationships, the Stronger Your Leadership

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” –Theodore Roosevelt

The acronym: HUMAN

  • H: Helpfulness. “Do more than you are paid to do. Your compensation will always be a direct function of your contribution.” (p. 146)
  • U: Understanding. To understand people, you need to listen–really listen. When people are heard, they will give trust, respect, and appreciation.
  • M: Mingle. Connect with your team, your colleagues, and customers. Network. People love to work with people they like and who understand where they are coming from.
  • A: Amuse. Having fun at work boosts productivity.
  • N: Nurture. “Be awesomely nice.” Be tender, yet tough. “Leave every person who intersects your path better, happier, and more engaged than you found them.” (p. 153)

The Fourth Leadership Conversation: To Be  a Great Leader, First Become a Great Person

“If everyone was satisfied with themselves, there would be no heroes.” — Mark Twain

The Acronym: SHINE

  • S: See Clearly. Develop high levels of self-awareness and think regularly about the accuracy of your thinking. Recognize ways in which you may have been programmed to think and overcome them. Think positive. Think like a champion. Do not let your mind be on auto-pilot. Get up an hour early to think, read, meditate, and clear your mind. (See the 7 Fundamentals of Personal Leadership.) And most importantly, “you can’t craft a superb future, by remaining stuck in your past.” (p. 182) Free yourself of old disappointments.
  • H: Health is Wealth. If you are at peak health, your performance will rise to match it. “Health is the crown on the well man’s head that only the ill man can see.” (p. 185)
  • I: Inspiration Matters. “A day without feeling inspired is a day that you haven’t fully lived.” (p. 185)
  • N: Neglect Not Your Family. Your loved ones matter. What is the point of being successful, if you are totally alone?
  • E: Elevate Your Lifestyle. “Do something every day to improve your lifestyle.” (p. 187) Success is not about what you receive…it’s all about what you return… (p. 187)

7 Fundamentals of Personal Leadership

  1. Learning
  2. Affirmations
  3. Visualization
  4. Journaling
  5. Goal Setting
  6. Exercise
  7. Nutrition

All in all, there are many basic fundamentals that are good to bear in mind when going out and facing each new day. At one point it the book, it spoke to 40 hours to instill new habits. Considering, many of these points are their own habit, it takes a lot of work to move down this path. Personally, I think it is worth it. Just hard to practice it.

I look at my friend and I see he has mastered many of these practices and strategies. He could use a little work on the people skills and moving past those who don’t matter. It is not wise to waste time on those who just don’t get it anyway.

I appreciate Dr. Sharma’s insights, and I do believe he has built his most recent leadership program on the pillars of this little book, so for now, I won’t go dropping any money on my development…just some time and reflection. I hope to blog more in the coming year and hope you will find what I share useful and inspirational and not corny and unbelievable. Sometimes, it’s a fine line.

Learn more: The Leader Who Had No Title Web site


Sharma, Robin. The leader who had no title: a modern fable on real success in business and in life. New York: Free Press, 20112010. Print.


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