The Leader Who Had No Title


I have been a big fan of Robin Sharma for a long time; reading his books and listening to him on YouTube. But meeting Robin in London; when he autographed my copy of The Monk who sold his Ferrari, was surreal as he embodies what he ‘preaches’. He is unbelievably humble, easy to talk to and has no sense of self-importance.

Much like The Monk who sold his Ferrari, The Leader Who Had No Title is written as a fable. Although the characters and story are fictitious, the lessons and learning shared are true and 100% applicable to anyone’s situation.

Robin mentions that “we all need to lead where we are planted and shine where we now find ourselves.” Too many people go to work with the mindset that to be a leader they need to work their way up the ladder, get the position they want, then they will be leaders. This is the wrong approach according to Sharma.

The Leader Who Had No Title is told through the journey of Blake Davis from New York, who had a good upbringing but after the loss of his parents, approaches life in a lacklustre manner.

His life seems to have no meaning and his negative attitude exacerbates things. He works in a bookstore and one day meets Tommy Flinn, who takes him on a journey and introduces him to four other people who share their pearls of wisdom about leadership and how to turn his life around. The mentor breathes life back into Blake as they search for a new path to meaningful work and purpose to life in general.

The three most powerful points I took from the book were;

  1. Leaders are those individuals who do the things that others 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.

  2. You don’t need a 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.”

  3. To be a great leader, first become a great person: Training and strengthening your own inner leader first, will help you perform at extraordinary levels. The key is learning to lead yourself. Sadly 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. “Leave every single person who intersects your path better, happier, and more engaged than you found them.”

Work Backwards.

Robin states that “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 ‘backwards’ 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’? Sharma suggests, those who want to do great things with their lives think about the end. But, rather than a point of anxiety or negativity, they use it as a starting point. He gives the example – if you were to jump in your car and head out on the open road with a full tank of fuel, who would be responsible for where you ended up when the tank finally ran dry? The car? The road? The other drivers? The example is simple for a reason – you are responsible for where you ended up. So how is it any different in the journey you call life?

Think about how you want to be remembered, and the legacy you want to leave. As Paulo Coelho stated in The Alchemist – “What is your true legend?” Regardless of the details, chances are you share the universal ambition of wanting your life to count for something; to have made a positive impact on those who you came across. 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.

Sharma goes on to say; “one of the deepest of all human hunger 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 distracted world, we’re spending less and less time 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. You can play a much-needed role in people’s lives by simply listening and focusing on the words and ideas being expressed. All it takes is some self-discipline, and the intentional choice to be present in the moment in which you are engaging with another human being.

Leadership Vocabulary.

According to Sharma, true leaders have many things in common. “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 armour show through frustrated venting or verbalised 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. 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.

What I took from it.

I got this book to sharpen my saw 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 and never play the victim.

Below are some more highlights from the book;

  • Life is a continuous lesson - Every person and experience we encounter is meant to teach us something about ourselves and enrich our lives, if we allow it to and are open to it. If we acknowledge this and constantly work at it, we will evolve and improve upon the person we were yesterday. Tommy also says to Blake that he’d like him to achieve world-class standards not only in his career but in his health, relationships and levels of happiness.

  • Treat everyone equally - A strong element in the book is about treating everyone equally. You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”— Malcolm S. Forbes. This saying reaffirms the essence of what Robin Sharma conveys in the book. We have all encountered people who have an inflated sense of ego and status and treat people that they feel are ‘beneath’ them in an undue manner. It was Maya Angelou who said, people will forget what you’ve said or done but will never forget how you made them feel. We should treat everyone with respect and humility regardless of how we perceive their influence on our lives.

  • Nourish your principles to ensure success - The book reminds us about a set of principles that we need to apply to our lives and how through their application we will be truly exceptional leaders, no matter where and in what positions we are. Anyone can lead and each and every one of us has the power to show leadership. We don’t have to wait until we reach a certain level to be exceptional. All you need is a desire to be involved and the commitment to make a positive difference. Robin states that “The only way any organisation – and any human being, for that matter – will win in these times of revolutionary change will be to start operating under a revolutionary new model of leadership. And this model is all about creating an environment and culture where everyone needs to show leadership.

  • Commit yourself to mastery - “Master you craft” – whatever it is you do. Robin encourages readers to master their craft. You have to continuously learn about the subject you are passionate about. Everything evolves and we need to keep pace with the changes in our fields to ensure we remain relevant and informed.

My Rating

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 you. Robin is a genius when it comes to taking difficult concepts and making it easily understood. The leader who had no title is no exception, and for me, his best book to date.