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Book Review: ‘Be Chief: It’s A Choice, Not A Title’ by Rick Miller

When you hear the word “chief,” what comes to mind? C-suite executives who populate the top levels of an organizational chart? Military leaders who command our respect? Our president, the commander in chief? Conventional wisdom has long defined chiefs as rulers of people—those at the top who hold the most power. It says chiefs are special and selectively chosen. But what if conventional wisdom is wrong? What if our view of chiefs—and of leadership in general—is an outdated construct that’s keeping our companies from being truly successful? Rick Miller, a Fortune 50 turnaround specialist, lays out this argument in his new book, Be Chief: It’s A Choice, Not A Title. And it’s a compelling one.

As a former chief himself, Miller is an undisputed authority on the subject. For 30-plus years, Miller held successful senior executive roles—including that of President and/or CEO—in Fortune 10s, Fortune 30s, nonprofits, and startups, including global organizations such as AT&T Global Services and Lucent Technologies.

As his career took off, he quickly earned a reputation as a turnaround specialist. “One writer even called me a magician,” Miller recounts. Miller is that fixer who’s brought in from the outside to take on those sinking-ship situations others run away from. Once Miller comes onto the scene, what does he do first? He inspires and creates powerful chiefs at every level of an organization, regardless of rank or title.

The key to sustainable growth, says Miller, is to build an organization where a very high percentage of employees are engaged and feel the power of “being chief,” a memorable and catchy phrase he’s coined. Everyone is capable of leadership, Miller emphasizes; being chief is a choice. And it’s one that spurs a state of mind that’s positive and contagious, working to the benefit of any leader.

What many leaders fail to realize, Miller explains, is that any employee can impact the engagement of every employee in a group. This philosophy isn’t only supported by Miller’s professional experience; it’s backed by science.

As Miller explains, in work environments, positive emotions spread from person to person. But that’s not where it ends. The vibe of cooperation and goodwill continues to spread to person to person to person—up to three degrees of separation. That’s an impressive cascade, Miller rightfully boasts. That’s viral engagement.

Be Chief is filled with countless real-world examples of empowered chiefs in action; in fact, much of book is devoted to surprisingly touching personal stories and relevant, convincing case studies to help you create chiefs in your own workplace. In this way, Be Chief is both an autobiographical account of Miller’s accomplished professional life punctuated by his sage advice, a peek inside the inner workings of a bright C-suite mind.

Be Chief includes road-tested tools, such as a Power Compass, a core set of values that reveal which direction chiefs and leaders should take in any given moment. Miller includes an easy-to-use worksheet at the back of the book where readers can assemble their own version of this compass—built from personal cornerstones and crucial points of alignment. Miller walks you through this process, step by step, and refers readers to tools on his website.

While reading, one can’t help but see how “being chief” would work not only in business but also in any aspect of life. To this point, Miller agrees as he writes, “Whatever path you choose, look inside yourself for true power. You don’t need permission or approval from anyone else, ever. And you certainly don’t need a title. Make the choice to be Chief.”

To learn more about Rick Miller and his new book, “Be Chief”, visit Being Chief.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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