x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Novel approach leads to mixed message

Robin Sharma's The Leader Who Had No Title provides too many contradictions to give a meaningful picture on leadership

The most commendable element of Robin Sharma's The Leader Who Had No Title is the fact the author tries to engage readers with a plot while delivering his message on leadership.

Sharma weaves a simple tale about Blake, a young ex-army veteran who is disenchanted with his role as a bookshop teller. That's until he meets one of his Dad's old friends, Tommy, who takes Blake on an adventurous day of learning about "leading without a title".

As the reader follows Blake on his journey, they too are taught Sharma's view on the benefits of leadership and how to be a success.

From a reader's perspective, it is often hard to remain engrossed in a self-help book, so the addition of a plot certainly helps to retain interest. But the fundamental flaw is its fundamental theme. Mr Sharma argues that anyone can lead, regardless of their title, role in an organisation, education or history. The way he advises they lead is by working harder, valuing their position, being a more amiable person and helping others.

"You don't have to have a title to be a leader," Tommy tells Blake, "You just need to be a living human being. That's all."

The definition of a leader becomes so broad it no longer feels meaningful.

Sharma seems to be redefining leadership to match his advice on how to improve your life and feel better about your lot.

As one of the keynote speakers at a recent leadership event in Dubai, Sharma was certainly engaging. The evening was organised by du, the telecommunications company, and the author used video and numerous quotations from famous leaders to keep his audience entertained.

But in a similar manner to his book, the speech was peppered with practical examples that often seemed to contradict one another.

"Distraction is the enemy of production," he said.

But he then recommended spending more time with family, giving an example of a father becoming distracted from work to play with his son.

In the book, Tommy seems to contradict himself when he tells Blake to "forget what others might say. And remember what Albert Einstein once wrote: 'great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds'."

rjones@thenational.ae