The Secret

Confusion is common.

Confusion is the gift of those who think they know but don’t.

Wisdom seeks clarity. Evaluated experience delivers it.

the secret book giveaway

Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller clarify, “The Secret,” of leadership in five letters:


S.E.R.V.E.: See the future – envision and communicate a compelling picture of a preferred future.

  • What do I want to be true of the future?
  • Why should anyone care?

S.E.R.V.E.: Engage and develop others – recruit and align people for the right job.

  • What invited my engagement in the past?
  • Which of these factors are missing in those I lead?

The future is about people not programs, projects, or products.

Mark Miller on the role of failure and success in developing leaders (1:35): 

S.E.R.V.E.: Reinvent continuously – continuously focus on improvement.

  • How do I need to change?
  • Where do I want different outcomes?

Successful leaders address and correct problems without creating negative environments.

Mark Miller on reinventing continuously without becoming negative (2:53): 

S.E.R.V.E.: Value results and relationships – generate measurable results and cultivate great relationships.

  • Which is my personal bias as a leader – results or relationships?
  • How can I compensate for the area that’s not my personal strength?

Leaders who are great at results and relationships reach the highest.

S.E.R.V.E.: Embody values – live fully aligned with stated values.

  • What values do I want to drive behaviors in my organization?
  • What are my actions communicating?

Ultimate leadership question:

“Am I a serving leader or a self-serving leader?” (From “The Secret“)

The Secret” won’t take long to read but it takes a lifetime to live.

Which letter in the S.E.R.V.E acronym do you find most important?

Most challenging?

Entry for the book giveaway is now closed.


Bonus material:

Free Chapter of “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do.” (No email required.)

96 thoughts on “The Secret

  1. Good post Dan. Wisdom seeks clarity. Evaluated experience delivers it: How does one evaluate experience in a way that leads to wisdom, not bitterness?

  2. Eric Pittman on said:

    Hard to pick one of the 5, but if I had to I would say Valuing Results and Relationship. If you don’t have both, and strike the right balance, your success as a leader will be very limited. You can’t lead if nobody follows (relationship) and if you don’t produce (results) then you won’t be leading for long.

    Thanks for the posts, I really enjoy and appreciate your thoughts!

  3. “Leaders who are great at results and relationships reach the highest.” It took me years to learn this. And a lot of pain. But thanks to some great mentors, I learned it. Applying it with excellence – thats a lifetime of growing.

  4. Supreeth Hebbar on said:

    The future is about people not programs, projects, or products

    I liked this Quote-

    Programs gets updated with the latest version,
    Projects will be changing,
    Products gets expired.

  5. Kerry Osborne on said:

    Hard for me to choose between R – continuously reinvent and E – embody values. As a leader, I cannot expect anyone to follow me if I do not “walk the talk”, and I certainly cannot expect anyone to embody the values of my organization if I do not model the same behavior. And as far as continuously reinventing and focusing on improvement — this applies both to myself and my growth as a leader, but something that I want to inspire in those I lead. Always looking for the next “stretch” assignment to enhance your skills or learn new skills is something very important to me. It is important though that the improvement is driven by something positive, not negative.

  6. I think “V” is the most important, especially in cultivating good relationships. That component can get lost in the quest for results. And I think “E” can be the most difficult. Not always easy to walk the talk.

  7. Value RESULTS and RELATIONSHIPS. Great word. Teo sides of the same coin. Its easy to focus on one side and forget that there is another. Especially when you are working in a culture that values one and not the other.

  8. I have always believed that great leaders serve and guide. I look forward to examining this perspective thru the SERVE lens.

  9. This is great food for thought. I think all of us probably do one or two of those. I would love to figure out how to do all five. S and R go hand in hand and are most likely the ones I would currently pursue. Now i just need to get the EVE part of the equation.

  10. Brandon on said:

    awesome words.

  11. Matt Leonard on said:

    Great insight. I love to focus on clearing the waters; it reduces the drama. I see it the cloak of confusion everyday.

  12. Chandra Farner on said:

    I have been through a leader development course that people within our organization are nominated for and the key that is stressed within this is to be Servant Leader. Empowering others to be aware and reach the specific goal of an organization and attempting to apply every letter of S.E.R.V.E. is the reward for a leader.

  13. All Letter are important but the most challenging to me is letter V.

    Value results and relationships. The balance betwen them are really challenging. Thanks for this post.

  14. V- One of the constant struggles for me is the tension between relationships and results. Mostly in terms of how I spend my time. Even though my current position does not involve engineering, my ‘wiring’ tends towards very task-driven, results-oriented. Now, for results I need other people, which means I need to spend my time on relationships. Hard for me to do.

  15. Alex Russell on said:

    Servant Leadership embodies this post….you have to be willing to take a true look at yourself as a leader and your team, embrace diversity and difference, be willing to make a move, and back up and punt if it doesnt work out, surround yourself with people who know more than you and are on the right seat on the bus, set goals, measure outcomes, hold each other accountable – and ensure you all have the same values in mind when making descisions and guiding your actions.

    Most important letter for me would be “V” – results and relationships – you can do it alone…and results do matter.

    Most challenging – “R” – reinvent continuously….needs to happen but can be scary for most – we rely on our past experiences/success which drives our behaviors…

    Need to be willing to put yourself out there….and have a great team behind you! Success is not achieved alone.

  16. Kim Davino on said:

    Engaging others was my first thought of most importance. When you nurture others and use their talents in their specialty areas it is always a win win situation. By building them and their confidences to work together as a group for our common goal and being successful in achieving it. Reiventing myself was a difficult but advantageous lesson I had to learn. I expected others to be part of the “plan” and adapt to how “I” needed them to be, but it was not working until I am the one to also learned to adapt to them.

  17. I have been fortunate to fail and often. I realize as I read this that it’s not the failure itself that was the great teacher for me it was the ability to self reflect and the drive to not let that mistake happen again that has allowed me to fall and get back up time and again.

    I have always valued people over everything else, to the point that I have made measurables the enemy. I have never wanted to discount the people factor and have been results focused, as I’ve gotten older and grown I realize that the process needs to be elevated and celebrated and by doing that we really honor the people in our organization. The best process in the world fails without good people putting it together.

  18. Bill LaVelle on said:

    I think this acronym applies well to church leadership. Being a pastor, I’m daily challenged to communicate the mission and vision of the church, find the right people to serve, ask how we can do it better (especially worship), deepen relationships while articulating values, and of course, walk the talk (this last one is most challenging).

  19. Ken’s done it again Dan, put a complex set of of issues into an easily understandable set of simple rules. It’s going on my must read list!

  20. What do I want to be true of the future? That’s a question worth pondering. Also worth asking is, how can I better find out what others would like to be true of the future and then make that a reality?

  21. If I had to choose it is value results and relationships. The relationships are critical for the rest of the dominos to fall in place. We are moving our culture of servant leadership with small baby steps, but The Secret has been a great tool for us to use with leadership!

  22. These are just right and hitting the spot. Plan to talk to staff today about staff evaluations. Why we do them, how we do them, and why it maybe the most important thing you do as a leader of others.

  23. R…Reinventing continuously is the most challenging for me. I truly understand and embrace that people and not products, programs and projects are the most crucial to any organization. Although monitoring and evaluating your programs and continuously trying to improve is the mission we gat caught up in just doing and taking care of the business that before we realize the year is over and now were startegically planning for the next year. We always seem busy JUST doing what we planned and rarely focus on evaluating during the implementation of the plan. Stopping during the process to assess is crucial but were to focused on taking the hill. We usually take the hill but don’t realize to it’s accomplished that there was a better or mor efficient way to achieve the same success.

  24. E engage and develop others. The future is brighter if you accomplish these. I requires effort and understanding each member of your team and their unique srengths and needs. It is very satisfying as a leader to see my team members grow.

  25. Great post Dan. Although none of these are easily mastered, I find that leaders in my industry struggle most to find balance in V. It is a constant struggle, but well worth the journey to master.

  26. Hi Dan – “Engage and develop others”
    Let me explain. I am a strong believer in learning by doing and making mistakes. Also I have being listening to Mark Miller on that point – good explanation. This point perfectly fits into my very own life experience – Dan you know what I am talking about.
    When engage our clients, failure is always anticipated. Even if they are small or short termed we must point them out and let them rethink the process.
    Thanks for sharing

  27. Richard on said:

    E – if you can’t create and implement the positive behaviors, you have confusion. Confusion is never a great leadership trait – clarity is!

  28. Alisa Beheler on said:

    wow, that is very eye opening. For me the last E stands out. The company I work for has recently been changing the culture of our work environment. We have been focusing on our values in ways I never thought possible. This book would definitely fit into the model we are drivng to change. Would love to win a copy but if not I will definitely be purchasing it.

  29. I love the fact that we can all be leaders where we are planted within an organization; it truly has nothing to do with position. Aligning your goals and vision with the organization, helping to maintain that thread within your team, growing, learning the qualities of a good leader and taking the time to put these into action is what makes people good leaders.

  30. Richard Barry on said:

    “The Secret” will help me to learn to S.E.R.V.E. people. Thereby, refining my active leadership in my mutual benefit marketing community. I look forward reading “The Secret”, a means to personal improvement. Kind regards Dan. Richard Barry

  31. I was meant to read this post today! An hour ago, I stopped by a manager’s office and while I waited for her visitor to leave, I glanced at the nearby bulletin board. Someone had posted the S.E.R.V.E. acronym. It caught my eye. Then, just now, as I opened this email notification for your post my eye caught Ken Blanchard’s name and it drew me in having just seen his name on the bulletin board.

    “V” is what is speaking to me today. I highly value relationships and need to figure out a way to “compensate for the area that’s not my personal strength.”

    Thanks for the timely post!

  32. Reinvent continually. We get comfortable with systems and processes and they will ultimately become antiquated and outdated. We must reinvent! 🙂

  33. Jerry Green on said:

    Once again great article regarding the importance of relationships and to serve. I go back to Andre Malraux quote ” To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less”

  34. Jan Sims on said:

    Which letter in the S.E.R.V.E acronym do you find most important? V–valuing results and relationships–sustainable results depend in part on great relationships.

    Most challenging? E–Embody values – live fully aligned with stated values. We must include transparency as we embody our values, because there will be some whose perception will skew the way we walk out our values and we must set our minds not to take offense and be transparent with others when the need arises.

  35. Gelly Ntilia on said:

    I wish every success to the book and I am sending my congratulations to the authors. Please, never cease to amaze us.

  36. Hi Dan!

    Lots of meat, fruit and wisdom to your post and S.E.R.V.E. Thank you! The quote that sums it up for me is “The future is about people not programs, projects, or products”. The book is on my list!

    Kevin M. Norris
    The Power To Be Epic

  37. Oops! I forgot to pick one. R for reinvention because I am currently traveling on my own Universal Re-Invention Tour.

  38. Bob Anderson on said:

    We have an Emerging Leader Program within our Army Civilian organization and this book could be required reading because it covers all the major tenets of servant leadership. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Hi Dan,

    For me, I found the “V” point most interesting.

    “S.E.R.V.E.: Value results and relationships – generate measurable results and cultivate great relationships.

    Which is my personal bias as a leader – results or relationships?
    How can I compensate for the area that’s not my personal strength?”

    The follow-up questions show that leaders can improve by being self-aware of where they have weaknesses.

  40. Reinvent continuously is a good one. I think about this and encourage my team to do the same. If we don’t, we can quickly become irrelevant and ineffective. It’s the same with anything else; if it isnt relevant to the current environment or needs of the business, it’s obsolete. If you’re obsolete, you can’t do anything else with the rest of SERVE.

  41. Read it once and loved it. Read it a second time and made me think deeply. I should read it a third time!

  42. My greatest challenge is inspiring others to excel in areas where I myself am weak. There I communicate that I want to work and improve alongside them so that together we both my improve. Thank you for a challenging and uplifting post.

  43. R. Reinventing, continuously improving without sounding negative is the hardest for me and therefor the most valuable as well – it’s the area for my greatest improvement. I’m always looking to improve my arsenal (hmmmm bad word) of skills to first see what is right and then see how to best re-position or re-frame it rather than my emotive and reactionary response of “that’s wrong” or “that could be done a whole lot better”…I give it away in body language and the words i use – or the long pause i have before the steam comes out my ears!!

  44. Forgot to pick a letter!

    All are essential in my opinion. Value relationships and results is the most challenging, I fear I can be too focused on objectives at the expense of people’s feelings, emotions, circumstances, etc. Empathy is the key element I need to work on and improve.

  45. Tim Glass on said:

    They are all excellent, the “R” reinvent and focus on improving ( We all can improve in some way or another) and the “V” to value results and relationships we see a lot in for a business portfolio and life in general as well.

  46. Jondexter Toombs on said:

    Dan, thanks for sharing your insight and personal experiences in reference to leadership. Only if one knew the right questions to ask and the context of the conversation, including environment, one may begin to scratch to surface to begin the process of confusion removal.

  47. 2thdocbob on said:

    Dan, I was impressed with this post. Introspection is such a vital part of leadership, but it is frequently overlooked. And introspection with a plan (as you have described) can be extremely effective.

  48. Wow, which is most important? That’s kind of like asking which of my 5 senses is most important…

    Having said that, I would have to say E – engage and develop others. You have to have the right people on your team and then you have to ensure they develop into the future leaders your team needs. Without that, it doesn’t matter how compelling a vision you may have (S), how much you want to improve (R), whether you value results or relationships (V), or how aligned you are with your values (E).

  49. Paul Fein - The IDD Leadership Group LLC on said:

    Great summary of The Secret. Clearly, leadership is about others, relationships and a focus on people. Another great (and quick) read is Mark Miller’ book: The Heart of Leadership.

  50. Larry R. Kaiser on said:

    “S”, Seeing the future, is the basis upon which leadership must be built. A leader must be able to articulate a clear vision and plan as to how to make that vision a reality. To do this a leader must also be able to communicate the message in a way that the rest of the organization can buy into. To me it all comes down to three word: Inspire, Achieve, Transform.

  51. Paul Robbins on said:

    This reminds me of the great John McCann’s three essentials for any team: Clear goals; Strong relationships; Free flow of information.

  52. Dan, another great post. S.E.R.V.E. is something that appears to get lost in the hecktic pursuit. “V” for “Value” could be construed as “Value(s)” as in character, something in the haste to the top, many forget. If we sustain with the character of our values the others are “serve(d)” well

  53. Dan,
    This is a terrific post and discussion. Why does one have to be more important that another? They are all equally important, and the synergystic effect is lost if one of them is missing.
    They all add up to: Service to Others. And isn’t that what success is all about?
    Thank you for the great post!

  54. *§*”Ů”*rXr*RxR*vVv*ęĒę*..*M”i”*Y*..*Hmm*..*”i”*..*Ą*mMm*..*Hmm*..*#•1•V*..*LË°fFf°±°tTt°*..*pPp*Å*Y*T”i”*§H”ů”N*..*V*”i”*R*Tr”Ü”ę*…smj/j•13±1…”

  55. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships! Leaders need this foundation in order to get meaningful results. Great post!

  56. Dave Ghena on said:

    Serving co-workers provides meaning to leaders and brings out the best in others…’s definitely counter cultural in our “me first, second and third” society. Want to make a huge difference in your work team in 2015, ask yourself this question, “what one thing could I do today to make a very real difference for another human being?” It may be simple as listening, affirming and encouraging behaviors towards a desired outcome before it comes to full fruition.

  57. For me, it is reinventing continuously. I am always reflecting on how I can be better, serve better, help my staff become better and how we want to look differently in the future. The challenge is staying positive while working toward that continuous improvement. This is a great post and one I need to keep at the front of my reflection as I go forward. Thanks Dan!

  58. Nancy English on said:

    Loved the comments under R! They are all good. This sounds like an awesome read.

  59. Dan, long time reader, first time poster. Grateful for all the wisdom you’ve implanted in me thus far. Today’s post resonates, as I’ve kept the SERVE model summary posted on my wall for several years now. In a glance I’m reminded of the importance of each letter. It helps to remain humble, that there’s constant improvement ahead. I find that the most challenging letter for me is ‘E’ – Embody the Values because it’s harder to ‘live it’ when you are around examples of poor leadership, or opposites of SERVE. It’s much easier to be cynical, which I can be too. So…the model helps rise above the negative and to be a servant to my colleagues, looking to where I can help. The best is when a colleague asks for advice, (I hand them my dog-eared paperback “The Secret”, asking them to get back to me after they read), and then seeing that light go off. They get it! I learn more! Experience through a different lens is gained.

  60. Michelle Romanica on said:

    E – Embody Values
    I find this one both the most important and the most challenging.

    The most important because alignment brings happiness and engagement. Misalignment brings disillusionment and disengagement.

    I find this a challenging one because it involves behaviour change and behaviour change comes from more than the “knowledge” of how. The person must see the desired behaviour in action for them to be able to take that knowledge and turn it into an action.

    The challenge for me has been getting past the assumption so many people have built into their DNA – that is, “You’re saying something is wrong with me if you are asking me to change the way I am”.

    • …*DiTtœ*..*Bümm*..*P”ů”RR*ŮĘ*…TRBL#1<sMĄj/j°±°

  61. Great Post! Regardless of industry the highest levels of success will come from people, systems are a tool!

  62. Erika Haubrich on said:

    Reinvent continuously is probably the most challenging. I find I often get stuck in my ways and it can be difficult to challenge the way you do things and question your own processes, but it is necessary in order to grow.

  63. Robert T on said:

    All are important but “S” (See) is most important I think.

    Having a vision is where it all really starts. Without a vision, why bother?

    And the last letter (the second “E” for Embodying values) is how the vision is carried forward ethically and meaningfully — it’s how a real servant-leader moves toward the envisioned future.

  64. My favorite of these letters is the first E – engage others!

    The joke about leadership where you get others to do the work and take credit for it is partially right… though you need to share that credit with everyone else.

    I look forward to reading this book whether I win or not, though it would be nice to win…! 🙂


  65. In my observation it seems like E is the one missing most often. I see many leaders that state certain values are important but don’t lead by example.

  66. I’ve recently taken a new position and have a fairly large team with which I work. I don’t want to be their “supervisor” or “manager.” I want to be their team member – and SERVE them and the organization for which we all work. We impact children and adults – and though we are removed from the daily interactions with these two groups of stakeholders, the impact is there nonetheless. However, creating that culture with the larger group has been a challenge. Maybe this book will be this year’s holiday gift to myself!

  67. I think this ties into the best leadership is servant leadership. It find it is harder and harder to get people to buy into this concept, particularly high school students.

  68. SERVE – the book looks great – and – we can all say “we know that” – but knowing is not enough. Practice is what we need

  69. Value results and relationships so very important to leadership. S.E.R.V.E – what a great way to remember the things that are important.

  70. Wonderful post. Excellent model to define leadership well on five clear fronts.

    S is so necessary – Having a future view is critical, as the future is coming, it will be different than the current, and we must always challenge ourselves to help make it better.

    E is so sufficient – Regardless of the challenge or ease one has in communicating a better future (much less the gift to boldly envision the future), leading by example – the core of standing for what you believe is right and needed – is critical. Conducting your life in concert with what you believe, and particularly standing up for it when needed, is sufficient to carry the day when all else fails. It all starts, and unfortunately it often all ends, with our sincere embodiment of values.

  71. MrunalAsher on said:

    Dear Dan,
    A very interesting & useful post. I find all 5 letters of SERVE as narrated by 2 great authors is part of the key essentials of successful leadership.

    Per me, the letter ‘V’ as the most important since it deals with results and relationships which are the good measuring tools for any leader’s success.

    This is achieved by Focused Efforts and People Management Skill.

  72. Engage. Engage others and create engaging stories/content. Without engagement, you can see the future, reinvent, value and embody results. But if you don’t engage others, you ain’t leading!

  73. Deddy MK on said:

    See the future… Because that’s where it all started…

  74. S.E.R.V.E. All the letters are important. Without this no leader can survive.

  75. The greatest leader of all time told us that the giving factor is the best part of life and he modeled this by serving. He served by giving the most enduring gift, the gift of faith….. And with faith, nothing is impossible.

  76. For me it would be Value results and relationships. I think if you value the people and the relationships the results are much easier to achieve.

  77. Embody values – You can lead all you want, but if people don’t believe in who you are and don’t want to follow, you’ll have nothing but loneliness and resentment.

  78. I find “Engage and develop others – recruit and align people for the right job.” to be the most challenging. As a federal employee you rarely get to choose who works for you. Therefore, you run into those that don’t want to engage, and lack a commitment to develop. I win some, and lose some.

  79. it seems to me that if we plan at all, we are ahead of most of the world.

  80. Glen Schlecht on said:

    I LOVE how these leadership principles are so relationship- and people-driven. It’s not all about what we do as much as it is who we do it with, how we help others do what needs to be done, and doing what we do with character and integrity. Excellent!

  81. Aaron Olson on said:

    I have had SERVE posted on my office wall from the first time i came across it a few years ago. Serving and Servitue Leadership is essential to keeping me humble and supportive of my team. Great share!!!

  82. Continuous improvement and realization/acceptance of the inevitability of failure is a crucial lesson. To measure that failure make the room for improvement clear. This is a great acronym and I appreciate the post

  83. lucasleavitt on said:

    For the most important letter, I have to go with “V”. if you do not value others and their positions, then all else fails.

  84. I think what appeals to me most is values, the delicate balance between results and relationships is key to organisational leadership success.The combination needs assertiveness to is much easy to be inclined to either results or relationships depending on personalities.Cholerics would certainly go for results but socialisers will value relationships,but the key is in balancing.

    • The most important for me in leadership is to relate and engage with the people, but also model and live out the values.

  85. Rebecca Knight on said:

    As a new leader I will take this blog article and disect it further with my mentor. Relationships are very important to me so V for valuing relationships and results definitely struck a chord.

  86. I particularly am impressed by how the S and the E demand the essential actions of good and regular communication, and good listening. Those leters move me as most essential and also most challenging.

  87. Bob Roulston on said:

    Most important? None is more important than any of the others – as each supports the effort in an interconnected manner. Wherever you start can be the correct ‘letter’ for the time/space you occupy – so long as you continue.

  88. Luis Flores on said:

    Cannot pick only one, they cannot mean a great leadership if one is absent. I have read the book, it really outstanding. Made me think a lot about my approach to leadership. This one, and the Heart of Leadership are just a goldmine in leadership.

    • Dan, Big Gracias for the post – Home run!

      I love the acronym: S.E.R.V.E.
      Adding Value needs to be a pillar if we are to gain the influence and trust needed to lead others. Serving others is a privilege.

      I have become truly focused on Reinventing continuously – continuously focus on improvement. My mentor has said many times, You cannot give what you do not have. When I desire to grow in order to add greater value and see people become all they were destined to be that is a place of true service.

  89. Most important for me: E=embody values. A leader must Model the Way. For credibility. For establishing expectations and initiating success. Embracing values is more than assuming the organization’s. It’s knowing yourself–who you are, what your core beliefs are–and developing your system that incorporates these so that you can lead others consistently and faithfully.

    Most challenging: V=value results and relationships. Results and Relationships are much like qualitative and quantitative research in that they reside on opposite ends of the spectrum and are viewed as an “either/or” instead of a “both/and.” And that’s unfortunate. My experience includes managers (not to be confused with leaders) who focus so intently on Results that they sacrifice the Relationships that are crucial in achieving success. Relationships are everything in leadership, and when they’re ignored or undervalued, Results will inevitably suffer. Locating and maintaining that delicate balance between the two can be challenging, especially for those who are more focused on achieving results.

  90. André Cardoso on said:

    I think: Engage and develop others. Without the others and their engagement there is no leader…

  91. Donaciano Alvarado on said:

    Very good post Dan

  92. Kamran Khan on said:

    I like “V” because I always try to value results and relationships,

  93. 216 Marketing on said:

    Still Applicable.

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