Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Book Review: The Leader Who had no Title

We all need to lead where we are planted and shine where we now find ourselves.” According to Robin Sharma, the author of The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life, anyone can be a leader. Too many people go to work with the mindset that to be a leader they need to work their way up the company ladder, get the title or position they seek, and then they can be leaders. This is the wrong approach according to Sharma.

The book is written in a business fable style. The story is good and somewhat engaging. The leadership principles that surface in the story make the book worth reading. The foundation principle is self-leadership. Anyone who understands this can lead regardless of his or her official title in an organization. According to Sharma, “leaders are those individuals who do the things that failures aren’t willing to do–even though they might not like doing them either.” Too many people pay the sad costs of mediocrity and forego the spectacular rewards of being a leader.

In the story, the main character (Blake) has conversations with four unorthodox leaders. Each of these individuals works in a position that — based on conventional wisdom — would not be considered a leadership position. Each conversation brings out key principles that can help “ordinary” people become true leaders:

  • You need not title to be a leader: Success (business and personal) is something that’s consciously created. To lead without a title “you will have to be unrealistically persistent and wildly courageous.”
  • Turbulent times build great leaders: Challenging times in both business and life give us great opportunities to learn and transform ourselves. “Problems and difficult days are actually good for you.”
  • The deeper your relationships, the stronger your leadership: “Leave every single person who intersects your path better, happier, and more engaged than you found them.” Time spent forming deep relationships–in all aspects of life–will pay dividends down the road.
  • To be a great leader, first become a great person: Training and strengthening your inner leader will help you perform at extraordinary levels. The key is learning to lead yourself. In our world we define success by the things we have, not by the people we’ve become. The more self-awareness we develop the more likely we are to grow and help others.

If you are looking for practical ways to improve your leadership and your ability to make a difference where you’re at now, this book is a must-read. Though I’m not a veteran, I appreciate the thread of gratitude throughout the book for veterans who have served and for the freedoms espoused in America.

The Product Management Perspective: This is a great book for product managers. Too often we agonize over titles and the fact that some people/organizations do not give us the “respect we deserve.” We have the opportunity to become leaders in our organizations, regardless of the title or the perception of others.

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Lucky breaks

Sometimes it sure seems like other people have all the luck and get all the breaks. They don’t seem to work any harder than you, they don’t appear to be more intelligent, and they certainly are not more handsome. So why do they get the breaks you long for? Robin Sharma, author of The Leader Who Had No Title, summed it up this way:

Lucky breaks are nothing more than unexpected rewards for intelligent choices we’ve chosen to make. Success doesn’t just happen because someone’s stars line up. Success, both in business and personally, is something that’s consciously created. Success is created through conscious choice.
Focus your mental energy on achieving success and you will see ‘lucky breaks’ come your way consistently.