The Secret Language of Business | Kevin Hogan

Summary of: The Secret Language of Business: How to Read Anyone in 3 Seconds or Less
By: Kevin Hogan

Final Recap

In conclusion, ‘The Secret Language of Business’ offers an insightful exploration of the characteristics and principles that contribute to exceptional leadership. The SERVE model highlights the importance of seeing ahead, engagement, reinvention, valuing results and relationships, and trust in leaders. Through Debbie Brewster’s journey, you’ll learn how effective leaders are adaptable, visionary, and grounded in a foundation of servant-hearted dedication to the growth and success of those around them. By incorporating these lessons, aspiring leaders can rise to new heights in their personal and professional lives, with exceptional results for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.


Welcome to the summary of ‘The Secret Language of Business: How to Read Anyone in 3 Seconds or Less’ by Kevin Hogan. The book follows the story of Debbie Brewster, a failing leader who participates in a mentoring program and learns the foundations of successful leadership. The narrative introduces the SERVE model of leadership, encapsulating the essential qualities of great leaders. Through this inspiring story, you’ll explore the concepts of vision, values, engagement, reinvention, the importance of results and relationships, and trust as the core element in effective leadership.

A Journey to Leadership

Debbie Brewster, the newly promoted director of corporate client services, struggles to lead her business unit, which has the poorest performance in her corporation. Feeling lost and uncertain, she visits a library to think quietly and gain perspective. There, a librarian offers Debbie the opportunity to view her problems as opportunities and guides her towards the library’s information resources. After discovering the importance of mentorship through her research, Debbie signs up for her company’s mentoring program. The lesson she learns is that great leaders don’t become great overnight and that success is reliant on the people around them.

A Serving Leader

After being chosen for a mentoring program, Debbie was surprised to find out that the president of the company, Jeff Brown, would be her mentor. During their first meeting, Jeff emphasized the importance of being a serving leader and asked Debbie how he could serve her effectively. Debbie asked what the secret was to great leaders, and Jeff commended her for her question and promised to discuss it at their next meeting.

The SERVE Model

Debbie was impressed by Jeff’s leadership skills, particularly his listening abilities, and decided to learn from him. Jeff compared leadership to an iceberg, with skills being the visible peak and character being the essence of leadership. He explained that great leaders have servant hearts and serve their people in five ways. Jeff advised Debbie to seek opportunities to serve her employees to enable them to do better work. He also broke down the meaning of the SERVE model, which aims to develop strategic ways to serve in leadership. As a result, Debbie went out of her way to learn about her employees’ difficulties and helped them. Jeff complimented her and encouraged her to discover more strategic ways to serve. Overall, the book emphasizes that a compelling vision is one of the most serious demands of a leader who serves their team.

The Qualities of a Great Leader

In this book excerpt, Jeff explains that great leaders are visionaries who think about the future and inspire their followers with work that has purpose. They must also hold solid values that drive their behavior. Great leaders know how to balance “Heads Up” planning with “Heads Down” execution in daily activities. Debbie, a mentee, learns from Jeff’s challenges and realizes that building the future her team wants requires delegating “Heads Down” work to allow her to focus on mapping out goals. Ultimately, a leader’s job is to ensure that there is a tomorrow by making time today to plan ahead, and to serve their team with accountability, creativity, and stewardship.

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