Monday, June 4, 2012

The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma

Title: The leader who had no title
Author: Robin Sharma
Publication: Jaico Books
Price: INR 195

This happens to be a pretty long one as this review was my semester project  for college.

‘The Leader who had no Title’, a beautiful book by Robin Sharma, the author famous for his book ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’, begins in a very similar fashion as the latter. 

This book tells the story of transformation of ordinary people into leaders.

The protagonist, Blake Davis, a war veteran and an employee at a book company has had a hard life. He lost his parents early, had an unsuccessful love life and looked back at his military days as a bad phase of his life and career. He described his pre transformation phase of life as: “I medicated myself to too much TV, too much food, and too much worry – all designed to avoid having to feel the pain that one feels at the recognition of one’s lost potential”. His biggest challenge in life was to re-orient himself to the world that had forgotten him, but this to him seemed an impossible task.

Amid all things mundane and inconsequential, one day, an old man with the name of Tommy Finn, came to meet Blake, describing himself as a friend of his father. A very quaint old fellow, Tommy tells him that he likes to have no flashy title, no big designation showing up on his business card, but is perhaps the most respected and prized employee of the organization, thanks to a certain LWT theory that he knows and now wants to share with Blake so that he is also successful in his life. Tommy goes on to tell Blake that any person need not have any formal authority or designation to lead others, in fact to lead you really need no title whatsoever. Blake, unhappy with his life that he is decides to follow Tommy and learn what he has to teach.

Tommy asks Blake to meet him at a cemetery next morning. At the cemetery, Blake realizes that Tommy drives his dream car and thus is a rich fellow. He further finds that the old man has dug up two graves, each contain a tablet, the first having “The 10 Human Regrets” inscribed on it and the other, a golden one, with “The 10 Human Victories”. The inscription on the first one, teaches Blake (as well as us), the ten most prominent regrets people die with. Ranging from not been able to detect their inner beauty, or not being able to help others just because they thought they were incapable to having wasted a life which was worth gold and so on. The second one reassures the faith in oneself and motivates both the protagonist as well as the reader about the ten things if done, can lead to one’s life being called super successful. These tips range from having spent your full potential, to the rich glory of the achievements of those whose lives you bettered, to see the success of the new roads that you built, to be a leader without a title and so forth.

All this really inspires Blake to continue his quest about the LWT theory. Tommy then takes him to meet the four great leaders that had inspired him to walk along this path of LWT.

First of all, he takes him to a one of the best hotels of New York, a favourite haunt of the fashionable people. Here, he introduces him to a housekeeper, Anna who is of Argentina origin. Anna tells him how she knows hers is apparently an insignificant job, but at the same time it the most crucial job in the functioning of the hotel. How, even though she is just a tiny housekeeper, she has carved a niche for herself in this field and how the great CEOs who come to stay in the hotel specially request her to be their housekeeper. Anna, for the first time in Blake’s life praises and recognizes his great good to the nation by being in the army. She gives him the crux of the LWT theory. LWT stands for ‘Lead Without a Title’. Her underline philosophy is that ‘You need no title to be a leader.’ She gives him the entire learning of her life in a five letter acronym: IMAGE. Here
  •   I – Innovation. She believes that each and every day we spend on this earth has to be better than our previous day. There has to be innovation and repetition of any kind will lead to stagnation.
  •  M – Mastery. Anna believed that nothing in this world deserves anything less than our very best and maximum potential.
  •  A – Authenticity. In Robin Sharma’s words, ‘It has never been so important to be so trustworthy. It has never been so essential to be authentic.’
  •  G – Guts. Anna tells Blake that people often do not have the courage to move the path towards getting greater vision. Thus one must have guts to attain much in life.
  •  E – Ethics. As Tommy mentioned, one can never go wrong in doing something right. And as Anna elaborated, nothing is more precious than staying consistent with the values.

Next, Tommy took Blake to meet the second LWT teacher, Ty Boyd, a five-time world shalom skiing champion, who had had an unfortunate accident which had shattered his sports career. His main ideal was simple, ‘Turbulent times build great leaders’. He also gave him a five letter acronym that contained the nectar of all that he had learnt from his life: SPARK.
  •     S – Speak with candor. He believed that it was actually communication that was the cradle of any kind of mistrust or misunderstanding and that the deliverance of nothing but the naked truth was the solution to get rid of such mishaps.
  • P – Prioritize. As Ty put forth the point, Focus on the best and neglect all the rest.’ He even believed that focusing obsessively on the things that matter most to you is not unhealthy.
  • A – Adversity breeds opportunity. He explains that for every dream that has to be vandalized keeping in mind the changes in the scenario or any other reason, an another pristine, pure idea can take birth.
  • R – Respond versus react. Ty told Blake that to keep grace under pressure and to respond in place of react was the great key to survive with the LWT theory.
  • K – Kudos to everyone. Everyone for everything well done needs appreciation.

Then they went to meet the third teacher, a playful little Jackson Chan, an ex-CEO of a multibillion dollar technology company turned gardener. He believed that ‘The deeper your relationships, the stronger your leadership’. The acronym that he gave was HUMAN.
  • H - Helpfulness. He believed that to be eternally happy, one must do more than he/she is paid to do.
  • U – Understanding. Speak less. Listen more. To understand other person’s perspective was a soft skill you must have.
  • M – Mingle. He believed that another important aspect of the LWT theory was that one must be the connecting link between people.
  • A – Amuse. Fun makes you want to collaborate more, it makes work easy.
  • N – Nurture. One must take care of the company, take care of the colleagues. Get more customers, get great business. Basically in pursuing the LWT theory, one must not forget the basic duties he/she has to undertake.

The forth and the last teacher was Jet Brisley, one of the best known massage therapists in all of New York. One of the best lines he spoke was ‘Blood, sweat and tears are necessary to reach dreams, hopes and joys.’ To be great leader, one must first be a great person. One must be a leader of self. According to Jet, the seven fundamentals of personal leadership are: learning, affirmations, visualization, journaling, goal setting, exercise and nutrition. The acronym he gave was: SHINE.
  • S – See clearly. One must perceive the conditions and circumstances clearly. One must have a clear view of the rules and ethics one follows.
  • H – Health is wealth. Health is something we take for granted until we lose it. Good health is the foundation on which the pillar of our life stands.
  • I – Inspiration matters. He explained that one must indulge in activities that rekindle our passion and open closed doors which hinder our performance.
  • N – Neglect not your family. He believed that loved ones matter. Family was the ultimate thing we worked for.
  • E – Elevate your lifestyle. Enjoy life. Never make a compromise with your own life for it is important. It is all about you.

The book finally closes with Tommy leaving for his heavenly abode, the very next day of their meeting the 4 teachers. He leaves behind a note for Blake and gives him his car as well. His last words in the letter read, ‘Dream boldly. Live beautifully. And to your last breath Lead Without a Title.’

 The book ‘The Leader Who Had No Title’ brings into the view that is not very commonly considered: one need not be a leader to lead. A very pleasant idea that I found towards the beginning of the book was where the author mentions that worrying for things beyond one’s control is a pretty good formula for illness. In general, we live in an environment where we find worrying intrinsic to our nature and that to lead, one needs to have a high flying designation or rank or else one may cease to be effective. But this book provides a very entertaining and interesting perspective to the same by proclaiming loud and clear that leadership needs to come from within.

The book gives numerous, in fact countless brilliant suggestions, even if we apply some on our lives, we shall surely be changed individuals altogether. The book gives a practical approach about creating a leader within ourselves, rather than being a stereotypical checklist on what effective leaders must do and what they must not. As Blake remarks, embracing uncertainty is a precious gift, if we challenge the odds and decide to lead without a title, I do not feel the positions expressed in the book are fictional. All of it can be lived, provided we become the fountainheads of genuineness and embrace this LWT theory that has been explained here wholeheartedly.

In a description about the four teachers, Tommy explains that ‘they have the discipline to do what they know to be important – and right – versus what’s easy and fun.’ Easy paths may be tempting, but very often they are superficial and do not lead to desired destinations, but most surely the thorny paths need an awful lot of internal motivation. Leadership is not something to be learnt or practiced at workplace, it needs to reflect in our persona, in every task we undertake, in every relationship we build, this leadership should be seen.  As Gandhi mentioned, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

‘The 10 human regrets’ and ‘the 10 human victories’ described at the onset of the story go a long way in making us realize that we are literally living this life in darkness and that the things that actually matter are the ones we are unaware of.

A great piece of advice by Tommy that shakes the very foundation of our work style is that success is created through the performance of few daily disciplines that stack up together and produce a result that is much more than planned and expected. This is actually true, just as it is said drop-drop make the bucket fill, our daily routine of good turns and jobs well performed will ultimately lead to our successful professional career and thus a fruitful life.

The first teacher is Anna, a housekeeper. The author has used people from all walks of life to suggest that one need not belong to a particular class or creed to be successful, to use LWT or to be a teacher of something such as this. Even a seemingly ‘petty’ housekeeper can channelize her energies and become worthy of giving such intelligent piece of advice. The second teacher is a retired skiing champion. He had a lot of victories to his name. He had the world to himself yesterday, but today he was an ordinary man. Thus he spoke, ‘turbulent times make great leaders’.  The third was an ex-CEO who had now taken to gardening, a seemingly funny plan of action. The fourth was a massage therapist. The profiles of the four teachers remind me of a little couplet:

“If  I  were  a  cobbler,  the  best  of  all  cobblers  to  be.
If I were a tinker, no tinker beside should mend an old kettle like me”

Anna had a pretty tough childhood, but she seemed to have forgotten the pains of the past that might dampen her today. She seemed to exude so much positivity which was actually contagious. The acronym IMAGE for innovation, mastery, authenticity, guts and ethics seems so genuine. Innovation is indeed the need of the hour. When everything seems to have been ‘copy and pasted’, originality takes the crown.  Mastery over self, over the work, over the processes indeed gives us an upper hand in the task we pursue.  Authenticity is a kind of ripened stage of honesty. If one is right, one must have the guts, the confidence to speak it up. Courage is the ornament of leaders. The ethics are the final bunch of keys required to open the door to success.

In the acronym SPARK by Ty Boyd, the letters stand for speak with candor, prioritize, adversity breeds opportunity, respond versus react, kudos to everyone respectively.  To speak clearly to avoid any kind of misunderstanding is very important but this can happen only if you are fully aware of the actual situation and have the guts (the G in IMAGE) to prove your point and can prioritize what is good and what is not. Leadership is all about this. To respond to a situation calmly rather than reacting or overreacting is surely an important tip in self improvement. A leader needs to have the time and temperament to appreciate the beauty of the work done by others.

HUMAN by Jackson stood for helpfulness, understanding, mingle, amuse, nurture respectively. Who does not know helpfulness is a virtue. Or that mingling with others or an understanding nature is not the order of the day. This set of 5 virtues is a kind of reiteration of our duties toward those, we shall be a mentor, a leader to.

Jet gave his acronym as SHINE for see clearly, health is wealth, inspiration matters, neglect not your family and elevate your lifestyle.  His philosophy is that in a pursuit of being a leader and affecting other people’s lives, we mustn’t forget our duties towards ourselves and towards our loved ones. For above everything, if we are, our world is, else there is nothing.

Having said all that I feel, the book does not address clearly, a problem faced by many of us: we know we are genuine and we are the leaders, we do only good, but what if the others don’t. As such we do not hold any formal authority and thus we cannot expect the others to behave the same as we do. What to do in a situation such as this?

The book closes at a very encouraging note, having shown the transformation of ordinary people into great leaders without a title. I personally feel this book is a must read for all as if we follow the simple guidelines given therein, we can definitely change a lot about our lives and as the book claims, better the lives of as many as 30 thousand people in a short span of time.


  1. Oh Wow, a detailed review and really a pleasure to read it.
    It really befits to be the sem project. You selected a nice book too. Feel like reading it.

    Read Robin Sharma's 'The Monk...', liked that one but did not quite enjoy a couple of his other books.

  2. Thank you so much!!! :D :D

    And I am very much planning to read 'The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari' next!!

    Thanks again!