The Secrets of Leadership – some key points

Have just finished reading (most of) “The Secrets of Leadership” by Prakash Iyer, MD of Kimberley Clark Lever. I say “most of” because of the beautiful construct of the book – it’s an ensemble of short stories each with a moral…or sometimes two. Hence, one can pick and choose the stories to read, and one may decide to complete the book in multiple sittings.

The book is targeted at young leaders or even young executives / managers. It is not a classic for “established leaders” and does not claim to share any cutting-edge research on Leadership or its building blocks. For that, one can go through the massive number of articles in HBR, Sloan’s Mgt Review and Leadership books. If you are an established leader, this could be a fun book to pick up anecdotes / morals / quotes (at least) for your own sessions of coaching your younger team-mates.

It’s a bit of Jataka tales meets Stephen Covey meets HBR meets Larry Bossidy – amazing flow !


Some interesting ones :

  1. Strong leadership in adverse times is many times more valuable than that in “peaceful” times. A leader’s true flavours come out in such times like that of a good teabag in boiling water.
  2. Leaders need Passion, Hunger, Discipline to succeed – need to do their own PHD
  3. Initially, what you learn is more important than what you earn
  4. I did it because no one told me it was impossible – don’t get too daunted by low/negative benchmarks. Like the only frog who climbed the TV tower because it was deaf, and thought that the nay-sayers were actually egging him on. Or Australia being the first team to cross 400 runs in an ODI by scoring 434…South Africa won that match by scoring 438 – they had learnt that it was possible.
  5. Be positive – there are several stories in the book which bring out this learning, in different ways. Look for Opportunity in Difficulty. Else you will get Difficulty in (using the) Opportunity (when it comes).
  6. Some nuggets on the serendipitous beginning of large businesses – Sochiro Honda getting rejected in Toyota interview and starting his own scooter making shop. Or Colonel Sanders being able to sell his chicken recipe to only the 1000th (!!!) company he tried – KFC !
  7. Look at gaps rather than fielders – Ricky Ponting
  8. Shed your pre-conceived notions. Santro Black-n-Yellow cabs had a tough time initially as passengers thought they were more expensive to ride in. Grown-up elephants don’t break the flimsy chains in wooden pegs because they had got hurt in their childhood doing the same – forgetting that they have grown 50 times ever since.
  9. If it is to be, it is up to me – one of the few ten-word sentences with all 2-letter words. Very powerful meaning. Exhorting young people to take ownership, take charge.
  10. FEAR is False Expectations Appearing Real, and hence Fear being only in the mind. Kapil Dev hitting four sixers when 24 runs were needed to avoid follow on and only one wicket was left.
  11. Be Happy, but not satisfied…if you want to be successful
  12. Meet Luck half-way. An Abe Lincoln classic.
  13. It’s nice to be important but more important to be nice. HTDO – Hold the door open..for the next person.
  14. And many others…which you will have to read yourselves.

You can sort the 60 stories into your own categories of wisdom and then use the book as a Reference Book before addressing your team members…

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