I recently watched a presentation by Simon Sinek called “Reconnect with Why”. It was about how good leadership establishes a system of trust in the workplace and how strong leaders foster natural organization and cooperation.
In this talk, he discussed what makes a great leader, and great organizations, and I wanted to pass it along to you. While the concept is quite simple and has remained the same since human beings first gathered in groups, it is easily forgotten amidst the noise and busyness of today’s organizations.
Simon says that leadership is a human exercise, not a business one. You can’t lead a business. You can run a company, but you can only lead people.
And all our behaviour as humans is governed by a need to feel safe from danger.
In our organizations, these dangers could be things like the ups and downs of the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market, new technology that might render you obsolete, the competition, and so on.
You have no control over these factors; what you do have control over are the conditions inside the company.
And this is the main task of leaders – they are the ones responsible for setting the conditions that make people feel safe, and thus promote cooperation, trust and organization.
Because, as Simon says, we are social animals. We respond to our environments.
In a good environment, we are capable of remarkable things. In a bad one, we are capable of awful behaviour if we feel it is necessary to keep ourselves safe.
Thus, if leaders set the tone of keeping their people safe and giving and sacrificing of themselves, then people will naturally do the same for them.
When we know leaders are working tirelessly to keep us safe, we do the same for them.
Simon says that great leaders never sacrifice their people for the numbers. However, they will sacrifice the numbers for their people.
A real leader (and take note that this doesn’t mean merely someone with authority) takes the risk and sacrifice first, they go out into the unknown and, if necessary, stand in the face of danger for their people. And when their people feel they will do this for them, they will offer their own sweat, blood and tears to keep their leaders safe and advance their vision.
Great organizations then are not the ones with the best innovations, the ones hitting the biggest numbers.Great organizations are the ones built to last by leaders willing to sacrifice for their people. They continue to grow because people trust one another and work together in good times and bad. They are the ones that foster an environment where people feel safe.
What about your own organization? Are your leaders making your people feel safe? Are they willing to sacrifice?
If you don’t know Simon, he is a renowned speaker, author, trained ethnographer and leadership expert. He is best known for his New York Times Bestseller Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
To hear more of Simon’s great work, check out his TED Talk.