Uniting School Administrators to Create a Better World

Book Review: Chess Not Checkers – Mark Miller

I am a great admirer of Mark Miller, and his website, Great Leaders Serve. In a previous post, I wrote about what I learned in his book, The Heart of Leadership.

I was given the opportunity to read his latest book, Chess Not Checkers, and once again, I found Mark’s writings to be very valuable, especially for those of us who are looking to be better leaders.chess

In Chess Not Checkers, Mark continues his fictional story of Blake, a newly appointed CEO of  a small business that is failing fast. It has low morale and poor performing leaders.

Mark uses the game of chess as a metaphor for actions that need to be taken by the leaders to improve the business.

I read the book in about a week, reading about 30 minutes a day. It kept my attention, but most importantly, I gained some great lessons on leadership that can help me as a school administrator.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“You can’t wait for a leader to start developing one.”

“People do what people see. If you’re not learning and growing, don’t expect them to either.”

“Your capacity to grow determines your capacity to lead.”

“If you want your organization to thrive, you will need to strengthen your leadership team. You can’t transform your organization by yourself.”

“It is hard to imagine leaders who ask people to give their best without helping them know what success looks like.”

“You can’t harness the power of everyone unless everyone is in the know.”

“Part of your never-ending role is to keep the organization aligned on what matters most.”

“When people are given the opportunity to do what they do best, you engage much more than their hands.”

“Giving people real responsibility also communicates that you trust them.”

“Most employers are trying to extract value from their people. If you foster dreams, you’ll be adding value to their lives.”

These are just a few of the quotes that I underlined in the book.

Mark Miller’s style of leadership is the model that I want to base my leadership upon. He focuses on providing value to the lives of the people he leads. He understands that it is his responsibility as a leader to support and develop the leadership in others. One of the passages that demonstrates this most is when he writes,

“One more thing – and it’s probably the bottom line. You must show them you care.”


“Anyone whose heart you want to win. Every person on your team, from the most junior to the most senior, wants to know, ‘Do you care about me?’ When they know the answer to that question is yes, they tend to reciprocate – caring begets caring.”

Although Mark’s book is written for the business leader in mind, I believe it’s a book that school administrators will find very helpful and inspiring. I know I did.

It’s a book that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Until next time, here’s to your journey toward School Administration Mastery!

Thank you,


Check out Mark’s new book!


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