When it came time for Robin Sharma to carve out a life for himself, becoming a lawyer seemed right. Although he had loving parents, there was never abundance during his childhood, and he was determined to find a way to prosper as an adult. His life as a litigation lawyer provided money, status and all the trappings of the success he envisioned. But Sharma felt something was missing—that a vital part of him was silently starving to death.
After serious thought, he discovered that in achieving his picture-perfect life, he had sacrificed authenticity. “I had lost a clear sense of the vision and values instilled in me as a child and was no longer driven by any mission or passion,” he says. “I made the difficult decision to pull back from the noise of my life and reinvent the way I was living and leading.”
Sharma became a student of authentic leadership. He realized his own success had been skin-deep, prompting a closer examination of his inner motivations. “Dismayed by what I found, I chose to redefine my core values, bringing them in line with what I knew to be right,” he says. “I then started to understand the secrets of true happiness and success.”
With Sharma’s own transformation came an urgency to share his discoveries with others. His resulting work was an intriguing fable titled The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. But as an ordinary guy from a small town, the only way Sharma could become a published author was to self-publish his book. “My mother was my editor, I printed copies of the book at Kinko’s, and my father sold the finished product out of the trunk of his car to anyone who would buy a copy.”
"You cannot lead others until you have first learned to lead yourself."
To market to a larger audience, Sharma persuaded some bookstore owners to allow him to hold book signings. At one signing, he was approached by a man who happened to be Ed Carson, the president of major publishing company HarperCollins. Carson offered him a deal on the spot. Since the book was published in 1997, 3 million copies have sold in more than 50 countries. Numerous companies such as Nike, FedEx, GE, IBM and Microsoft have used the teachings introduced in Sharma’s book to help develop leaders in all levels of their organizations.
Today, Sharma has written a total of 10 books, conducted hundreds of seminars around the world and become known globally as a leadership expert. Starting March 22, he will share his findings and advice with SUCCESS readers through a six-week interactive blog challenge titled Become the Leader You Were Meant to Be.
“Leadership is my oxygen,” Sharma says. “I have spent years as a leadership coach to the very wealthy and have been able to get behind the eyes of some of the world’s best, studying the minute details of what makes a person great.”
His latest book, The Leader Who Had No Title, covers the following four elements, which Sharma has found crucial to the new model of leadership.
Great Leaders Need No Titles Sharma says there are two types of leadership. The most familiar kind comes with a title such as CEO or president. The second type is the power of each individual to drive positive change wherever they are. “Everyone is influencing the people around them one way or another,” Sharma explains. “Those who grasp that reality understand that their core beliefs will affect others, therefore those beliefs must be intentionally considered and applied.”
Sharma offers an example of a man who installed carpet in his office. “Burt installed carpets like Picasso painted pictures,” Sharma says. Though not a CEO or president, Burt took pride in what he did and led others to do their best by staying true to what he knew was excellent. Ultimately, Burt raised the bar for all who met him. “Burt illustrates a new model of leadership—the democratization of leadership, or leadership being practiced everywhere, not just from a corner office.”
Turbulent Times Breed Great Leaders “We tend to run away from discomfort,” Sharma says. “But fighting against turbulence is like fighting against the seasons. Tough times are inevitable.” He teaches that those who embrace change brought on by difficult times grow stronger while operating with the understanding that adversity breeds opportunity.
Effective Leaders Build Relationships He contends that deeper relationships lead to stronger leadership. “For instance, if a company leader focuses only on having a great product but ignores the people delivering that product, the quality of the experience to the customer is usually less than excellent,” Sharma says.
Sharma recalls a favorite childhood memory as an example of the importance of connecting with others. He was in Los Angeles with his parents during a Christmas holiday where they happened to see Muhammad Ali. Sharma stopped Ali and asked if he would pose for a photo with him and his family. Ali happily obliged, and his simple gesture of kindness made an impact on the young Sharma. “It is imperative that we recognize our need for others in order to be successful,” he says.
The Lost Piece of the Leadership Puzzle To become a great leader, one must first become a great person, Sharma says. “You cannot lead others until you have fi rst learned to lead yourself. Many individuals have become victims of their circumstances rather than overcoming them, which leads to an addiction to excuses.”
At a crucial juncture in life, Sharma chose to learn from those who had demonstrated meaningful leadership skills. Now he offers the same opportunity to anyone desiring to be successful in leadership and in life.
During his blog challenge, Sharma will offer practical ways to live a life of excellence and will expound on the principles taught in his latest book. His view from both sides of success gives Sharma a unique perspective and the ability to assist others in developing authentic, enduring success. To register and participate, go to blog.SUCCESS.com.