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Book Summary: Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

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If you try to play checkers in a chess world, problems are your reward.

Chess is not a game of luck, and neither is business. When you win, it’s because you made good decisions.

I am fascinated with the game of chess, even though I do not know how to play it yet. It is on my bucket list of games to master; the game contains lots of strategies that are applicable in life and business. I have seen lots of movies (Searching for Bobby Fischer, Life of a King), Documentaries (Magnus, Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine), read some books such as How Life Imitates Chess by Gary Kasparov to name but a few.

Chess Not Checkers by Mark Miller is an excellent book on how we can apply the game of chess to win in business. The author share four Chess Moves that have Parallel to Business, these moves, derived from winning strategies and principles from the chess world, have parallel applications in any organization. The four chess moves are: Bet on Leadership, Act as One, Win the Heart, and Excel at Execution.

In Chess Not Checkers, Mark Miller tells the story of Blake Brown, newly appointed CEO of a company troubled by poor performance and low morale. Nothing Blake learned from his previous roles seems to help him deal with the issues he now faces. The problem, his new mentor points out, is Blake is playing the wrong game.


The early days of an organization are like checkers: a quickly played game with mostly interchangeable pieces. Everybody, the leader included, does a little bit of everything; the pace is frenetic. But as the organization expands, you can’t just keep jumping from activity to activity. You have to think strategically, plan ahead, and leverage every employee’s specific talents—that’s chess. Leaders who continue to play checkers when the name of the game is chess lose. 

On his journey, Blake learns four essential strategies from the game of chess that transform his leadership and his organization. The result: unprecedented performance!

Here are my favourite take aways from reading Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game: