Podcast: Play in new window | Download
It’s been a while since Robin Sharma wrote a fable. His runaway hit The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari was written over 10 years ago and, while he’s had tremendous success with The Greatness Guide and The Greatness Guide part II, it’s great to see him returning to his storytelling ways. The man truly has a gift.
The Leader Who Had No Title is the story of a young army veteran, returned to society and struggling to find meaning in his work and in his life. Enter Tommy Flinn, an eccentric character who, over the course of a day, introduces our young hero to four unique individuals. The mentor collective breathe life back into the vet as they illuminate the path to meaningful work and with it, a sense of purpose to life in general.
I think that last bit is the part that made this book so powerful for me. I picked it up as a book on leadership and yet while it definitely provides tools and attitude shifts that will lead to better leadership in the workplace, the lessons in this book are about taking ownership of your life. About not playing the victim. About how now, more than ever, employees on all rungs of the corporate ladder (and non-profit to government workers inclusive) need to realize the impact they potentially have on the world around them.
The Big Idea
"The time to think about your legacy and how you want to be remembered is not on your last day, but now. That way you can live your life backward and make certain that you have a good ending."
If you’re like most people, you rarely think about the day you’ll die. In fact it’s a topic most of us take great pains to avoid, and for good reason. Who wants to think about “the end”? Well, Sharma suggests, those who want to do great things with their lives think about the end. But, rather than a point of worry or negativity, they use it as a starting point. Think about it – if you were to jump in your car and head out on the open road with a full tank of gas, who would be responsible for where you ended up when the tank finally ran dry? The car? The road? Maybe the other drivers? The example is simple for a reason – I doubt anyone could argue that anyone other than you is responsible for where you ended up. So how is it any different in the journey you call life?
There’s an old saying that most people spend more time planning their vacations than planning their lives. I propose that you at least get a feel for your life destination, if not the route to get there. Think about how you want to be remembered, and the legacy you want to leave. Regardless of the details, chances are you share the virtually universal ambition of wanting your life to count for something; to have made a positive impact on those who crossed your path. This is leadership – a positive influence on those around you, inspiring them to live just a little better than they did before they met you. Leadership – true leadership – has nothing to do with title, stature or wealth. It has to do with being a person that people want to look up to. In The Leader Who Had No Title, Sharma shares some very practical tools on how to be that person.
"One of the deepest of all human hungers is the hunger to be understood."
How much time do you actually spend listening to those you love? Giving people your undivided attention costs you nothing. And yet, in our ADHD world, we’re spending less and less time actually listening to people –even the people we claim to care about the most. Being understood – being heard – is one of the fundamental desires of all human beings. And you can give that to people. You can play a much needed role in people’s lives by simply closing your mouth, closing your laptop and focusing on the words and ideas being expressed. All it takes is a little self discipline, and the intentional choice to be present in the moment in which you are engaging with another human being. Try it out – commit to actually listening the next time someone important to you chooses to share something with you. What meaning is behind their words? Be a leader. Listen.
"They don’t gossip. They don’t complain. They don’t condemn. And they never swear. The only words they try their best to use each day are those that inspire, engage, and elevate."
How many people in your life do you respect or want to follow who gossip, complain or swear? We all do it – we let the cracks in our armor show through frustrated venting or verbalized worry. Leaders though – those we look up to – consciously work at limiting the number of such occurrences. Complaining and negative speak provide no value. And leaders are all about providing value. As often as they can, with whomever they can, leaders inspire, engage and elevate. What percentage of your “outbound communication” (verbal or written) is having positive change? How much of it is negative? A sales professional friend of mine once told me that “everything you say in front of a prospect is taking you one step closer to, or further from a sale.” I would argue the same is true with leadership. Every word that comes out of your mouth is impacting the people around you. It’s up to you to choose the words and messages for which you’re remembered.
The Leader Who Had No Title is a fresh perspective on a growing trend in recent business and personal development books alike; the world is changing. Leadership is no longer a title bestowed at a certain level of the corporate ladder (if it ever was). Leadership is the act of using your platform (your job, your social group, online community, etc.) to uplift the people around you. To provide value in your own unique way. To make a positive difference and, in doing so, enrich your own life and fulfill your destiny of leaving the world a better place than you found it. Sharma’s a genius when it comes to taking intangible concepts and cementing them in an easily digestible narrative. The Leader Who Had No Title is no exception, showcasing what could be some of Sharma’s most important teachings to date.