What makes a great leader?
TED Talks: Why good leaders make you feel safe. Simon Sinek (Filmed March 2014)
Simon Sinek, Management theorist, suggests a great leader is someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. As a consequence, people can and will archive remarkable things.
8 Key Takeaways:
1. Build a right environment for your people
If you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do these remarkable things, and more importantly, others have that capacity too.
2. Cultivate a circle of safety - This is how we survive
We (human beings) evolved into social animals, where we lived together and worked together in what I call a circle of safety, inside the tribe, where we felt like we belonged. There are inherent benefits to this. It means I can fall asleep at night and trust that someone from within my tribe will watch for danger. If we don't trust each other, if I don't trust you,that means you won't watch for danger. Bad system of survival.
The modern day is exactly the same thing. The world is filled with danger, things that are trying to frustrate our lives or reduce our success, reduce our opportunity for success. It could be the ups and downs in the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market. It could be a new technology that renders your business model obsolete overnight. Or it could be your competition that is sometimes trying to kill you. It's sometimes trying to put you out of business, but at the very minimum is working hard to frustrate your growth and steal your business from you. We have no control over these forces.
3. Trust cannot be build by verbal commands
Trust and cooperation are really important. The problem with concepts of trust and cooperation is that they are feelings, they are not instructions. I can't simply say to you, "Trust me," and you will. I can't simply instruct two people to cooperate, and they will. It's not how it works. It's a feeling. And when we felt safe amongst our own, the natural reaction was trust and cooperation.
4. Leadership matters
The only variable are the conditions inside the organization, and that's where leadership matters, because it's the leader that sets the tone. When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice the tangible results, so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.
If the conditions are wrong, employees are forced to expend their own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When people feel safe inside the organization, they will naturally combine their talents and their strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.
5. Leadership is a choice
It is not a rank. I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizations who have no authority and they are absolutely leaders, and this is because they have chosen to look after the person to the left of them, and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is.
6. Like parents
Great leaders want want to provide their people opportunity, education, discipline when necessary, build their self-confidence, give them the opportunity to try and fail, all so that they could achieve more than we could ever imagine for ourselves.
Charlie Kim, who's the CEO of a company called Next Jump in New York City, a tech company, he makes the point that if you had hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it. Then why do we consider laying off people inside our organization? Charlie implemented a policy of lifetime employment. If you get a job at Next Jump, you cannot get fired for performance issues. In fact, if you have issues, they will coach you and they will give you support, just like we would with one of our children who happens to come home with a C from school. It's the complete opposite.
7. Care more about people than numbers
Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.
Bob Chapman, who runs a large manufacturing company in the Midwest called Barry-Wehmiller, in 2008 was hit very hard by the recession, and they lost 30 percent of their orders overnight. They needed to save 10 million dollars, so, like so many companies today, the board got together and discussed layoffs. And Bob refused. Bob doesn't believe in head counts.Bob believes in heart counts, and it's much more difficult to simply reduce the heart count. And so they came up with a furlough program. Every employee, from secretary to CEO, was required to take four weeks of unpaid vacation. They could take it any time they wanted, and they did not have to take it consecutively.
But it was how Bob announced the program that mattered so much. He said, it's better that we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot, and morale went up. They saved 20 million dollars, and most importantly, as would be expected, when the people feel safe and protected by the leadership in the organization, the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate. And quite spontaneously, nobody expected, people started trading with each other. Those who could afford it more would trade with those who could afford it less. People would take five weeks so that somebody else only had to take three.
8. Leaders eat last
I heard a story of some Marines who were out in theater, and as is the Marine custom, the officer ate last, and he let his men eat first, and when they were done,there was no food left for him. And when they went back out in the field, his men brought him some of their food so that he may eat, because that's what happens.
We call them leaders because they go first. We call them leaders because they take the risk before anybody else does. We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected and so their people may gain, and when we do, the natural response is that our people will sacrifice for us.They will give us their blood and sweat and tears to see that their leader's vision comes to life, and when we ask them, "Why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person?" they all say the same thing: "Because they would have done it for me."
"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." ~ John Quincy Adams