Simon Sinek — Leadership Lessons In The Spotlight
Wondering how did Simon Sinek get the attention of the most influential leaders in the world, starting from scratch? He discovered incredible patterns in how the greatest leaders think, act, and communicate and he is always willing to share his leadership lessons with anyone who listens.
What are the top qualities of great leaders? What leadership lessons can we learn from them?
According to Simon Sinek, organizational consultant, motivational speaker and author, there is a distinct difference between those we call leaders, and those who lead. Leaders may hold positions of rank, power or authority and try to force behaviors or actions in others. Yet, the real leaders are those who inspire action in others through their example and passion.
What separates good leaders from ineffective ones? What does it take to go from merely good to exceptional?
Simon Sinek has devoted his life to tackling questions like these. After working with some of the world’s best-known leaders, Simon Sinek has identified the patterns that lead to outstanding leadership. His work explores the traits of the most productive organizations, and he uses this knowledge to inspire leaders to attain greatness.
Simon Sinek is a motivational speaker and someone who looks at the world with great optimism. His Ted-talk is the third most viewed talk.
In his book Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek reveals groundbreaking viewpoints on leadership traits possessed by today’s most successful leaders, while also dismissing common business practices such as firing the bottom ten percent, fixating on profits, and prioritizing incentive-based cultures. He instead heralds the importance of building trust, leading with a service oriented mission, the vitality of face-to-face interactions, and much more.
The good news is great leadership does not require any rocket science. Here are 6 essential lessons learned from the greatest leaders.
According to Simon Sinek, how to achieve successful leadership is not a great mystery. It really boils down to a few key leadership principles, and an ability to build trust with your team. Here is a look at each of these traits, and why it is so valuable for you to cultivate them as well as put into practice the leadership lessons that Simon Sinek has highlighted in his bestseller books.
Lesson #1: Leaders Eat Last
People like to be around people they trust — it’s as simple as that. Humans are constantly assessing people and organizations around them, and if they feel they’re selfish, they’ll keep a safe distance. On the other hand, people tend to want to associate with people characterized by an element of selflessness.
Simply put, leadership is influence. The performance of your staff is a direct result of how you influence them.
Yelling demands and threats to them won’t ensure that the tasks will be done accurately. Likewise, doing the opposite of what you expect of them won’t yield the best results either. Your performance as a leader is what will motivate them, what will be an example to them and ultimately, what they will mirror. Show initiative, teamwork, concern, problem-solving, collaborative communication, an interest in professional development, and you’ll witness a shift in their behaviors. Release control tactics and offer great influence for your staff to model. The positive results of this will be quite noticeable.
Leadership is about connecting with people’s hearts and providing the direction and support they need to thrive.
A good leader will find every employee’s distinctive attributes, and then coach them to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Learn about their personalities, motivations and individual learning styles, and show how you value the contributions and perspective they bring to the team. Rather than make everyone fit the same mold, celebrate the unique characteristics that altogether create an even stronger team.
Respected leaders think about making others better. They don’t leach, they lead. They are mindful of those that give a 100% effort to their responsibilities.
Respected leaders find ways to discover the best in people and enable their full potential. When they detect high-potential talent they impart upon them their wisdom and provide a path for long-term success. Leaders that “sponsor” their employees put their own reputation at risk for the betterment of the individuals they are serving. This is an admirable quality and one that is highly respected amongst a leader’s peers.
Good leaders have no problem giving credit to, listening to or building up others. They have their people’s backs and give support when it is needed.
They don’t see praising others as a threat to themselves. Effective servant leaders operate in a way that may be best described by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists — when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ ” It’s not just another management technique — it’s a way of life for a leader with a servant’s heart. Groups of leaders who share this philosophy create organizations with a culture of service. In a service culture, people who are treated well pass that caring behavior to their customers, which results in not only levels of satisfaction for the people involved but also success for the organization.
Having strong self-leadership requires a sense of confidence which is much different that ego.
If you are a self-confident leader, you have faith in yourself and your abilities to get the job done right. You accept constructive criticism, and although you make the final decision, you welcome other’s opinions in order to get the best outcome. Be sure that you leave your ego at the door and bring your confident self to the table. As others are watching and learning from you, modeling a healthy self-confidence is a great way to develop this important leadership attribute among your team.
Lesson #2: Leaders Are Purposeful
Having a strong, clear vision and passion for their cause means truly understanding the ‘why’ behind what they do. Whether in business, sales, politics or family relationships, knowing and sharing the passion of a clearly defined ‘why’ is critical. Once a leader is clear on his or her ‘why’, the how (behavior, and actions) and what (desired end result) evolve and flow naturally, without the need for coercion or force.
Generally speaking, leaders make decisions based on what they want to achieve, then they focus on what they need to do to make that happen.
Now, we all know how important it is to take the right actions in a business, but should those actions be your focal point? Not really… Simon Sinek says that first you need to know why you’re taking action in the first place. Knowing your “why” ensures alignment and helps you identify the right path forward. Plus, your “why” can be an endless source of motivation. Wealth, status, and other motivators are fleeting. You can’t rely on them in the long run… But if you remind yourself of your vision and your real reasons for doing what you do, you’ll be unstoppable.
Money is not a ‘why’ and is never the reason that leads to the success of a company.
Innovation comes from thinking about the ‘why’ — which is the reason you get out of bed in the morning. Often when organizations are on a downfall, they only look at making money and surviving. Profits are important but more important than that are the ethics, values, unique practices of a company that sets it apart and the same apply to people as well.
It’s important that leaders give those in their charge a sense of destination so that they feel and know that the work they do is contributing to something bigger than their own selves.
But to do this, one must first have a vision. A vision need to be concrete, like having mile markers in a marathon. The difference between a goal and a vision is the finish line. A goal is 26.2 miles, I don’t know what it looks like but I know how far it is. A vision, on the other hand, is a crystal clear sense of what the future state looks like but I don’t have an idea how far it is. In reality, every goal takes us closer to that vision.
Many employees are not aligned to the goals and vision of the management. And the biggest reason is because many organizations fail to uncover what is their true purpose.
Simon Sinek therefore attempts to explain that the great leaders and organizations that succeed, succeed because they managed to find the why they do what they do, and that consumers are aligned to that feeling as well. It could work both ways, because just like how a charismatic leader can influence everyone to be the best that they can be, an equally charismatic leader can persuade his followers that other cultures are worse off and should be exterminated.
Companies will be on a road to nowhere if their leader doesn’t possess a vision.
Once a leader has a vision, then they must become goal oriented so that they can accomplish all of their goals and not lose sight of what is most important. The vision is about where you are going. Without a clear vision, it is impossible to know whether the work being done is effective. Everything you do should be in pursuit of making something a reality. Kennedy’s vision to put a ‘man on the moon by the end of the decade’ is a perfect example. A clear picture of the future, bound in time.
Lesson #3: Leaders Provide Safety
Leaders have one job only: to create a company culture in which employees cooperate naturally towards growing the business. That’s the safety zone: when employees come to work not for the company, but for themselves and their colleagues.
Simon Sinek talks about the idea of “the circle of safety”. He believes at work, the circle of safety must be extended to everyone.
That notion translates to each levels of management taking care of their employees. The benefits of the circle of safety can only be realized when everyone within an organization feels safe — not just leadership. Simon Sinek describes what often happens to a culture without a circle of safety — not only are their external threats but internal threats as well. Other negative consequences can include silos forming, politics, mistakes being covered up, and self preservation.
The Circle of Safety builds and promotes a culture of helping each other.
Instead of worrying about who is going get credit for everything, the focus is on the company getting credit. You trust that the whole and not a part, will do the right thing. It isn’t about what I will do; it is about what we will do. When you are inside the circle you protect everyone else inside the circle from the dangers that lie outside beyond the border of the circle. When we have each other’s backs we move forward.
How do leaders create this type of company culture? By earning their employees’ trust.
The trust between the organization and its employees is essential. To earn their employees’ trust, leaders must first empower them. When you work with people you trust they will do their job better in order to deserve and keep your trust. These employees will show loyalty and commitment to the organization without the need for exterior incentives like promises, financial bonuses or other perks. When people feel appreciated by the organization, they feel safe and relaxed; this allows them to care about and connect with their colleagues and start working as a team to support the organization achieve success and prosperity.
Organizations succeed over the long term in both good and bad times when people share values and feel valued. Teams with deep levels of trust can easily act in the best interest of the collective.
Being accountable means we share credit and ownership for everything that exists in our business — the good, bad and ugly. When something is bad or ugly, we agree to take responsibility as a team and work together to fix it. Organizations that achieve the greatest success share an important trait. They all have a firm Circle of Safety in place — a culture in which the leaders look out for the long-term greater good of the organization, even if that means putting their own self-interests aside. This is why they are willing to push hard and take risks.
Leaders that build their companies with a culture that promotes this type of trust know that their leader got their back and vice versa.
When there is a high level of trust in any environment, loyalty is extremely high and as a result, the environment build people confidence and the company becomes very influential and very profitable. This is why strong leaders, extend the Circle of Safety to include every single person who works for the organization while weak leaders allow the culture of a business to shift to individuals seeking personal praise or only looking out for their best interests.
Lesson #4: Leaders Are Listeners
We often see so-called leaders in our society — our politicians, business CEO’s and managers, self-proclaimed gurus, and those in positions of authority — pontificating and telling others what they should be doing to make such and such happen.
But true leaders are often quiet. They ask questions, listen, and observe.
Listening is a skill that requires practice and patience. Listening is even more important than asking the right questions or any other leadership skill. They pay attention to what others are saying and doing, and they make note of what needs to be done. And then they set about doing it. Along the way, via their continual demonstration of passion and integrity, they inspire others to do the same.
Simon Sinek explains that your communication must inspire people, and to do that, you must listen.
Do this right, and you can connect with people on a profound level. Many companies look at communication as a one way street. They push out messages, then expect people to passively consume and react to those messages. Somewhere in there, the other key component of communication — listening — gets lost.
When you have an idea — when you think you have the answer — it’s easy to ask leading questions. It’s easy to ask limiting questions. It’s easy to ask questions that assume a certain answer.
But the skill to hold your opinions to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things: One, it gives everybody else the feeling that they have been heard. It gives everyone else the ability to feel that they have contributed. And two, you get the benefit of hearing what everybody else has to think before you render your opinion.
All your life, you’ve always been told that you should learn to listen. But here’s the catch.
While listening can really yield great results, especially if you’re a leader, Simon Sinek says that it is speaking last that you should learn to master. If you think about it……leaders do always have the last words, the closing words in a meeting. But what Simon Sinek emphasizes is the art of not speaking or commenting at all until everyone is done with their parts. That’s the only time that you, as a leader, will speak.
If a leader speaks last, it encourages all others to put their opinions and suggestions on the table.
More ideas and thoughts will surface and stimulate discussion which can lead to even more ideas. This process can be impaired if the leader speaks first as people are generally careful with disagreeing with their leader. Furthermore, if the leader has already stated a solution to a problem, many will feel that there is no use to provide a different suggestion since the leader most likely has made up his or her mind.
Lesson #5: Leaders Inspire
Many leaders are out of touch and disconnected from their employees, focusing solely on their own personal agendas. This is most evident in leaders that still try to use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to earn trust, build loyalty and stimulate team and individual performance.
Leaders must understand that in today’s new workplace, there does not exist a single recipe to encourage employees to perform better.
Rather, it’s about how to maximize the ingredients in order to create hundreds of recipes that are customized and authentic; that provide long-term continuity and impact. Employees are inspired by knowing that their hard work makes a difference beyond profitability. Employees want leaders who see beyond the obvious and look to create wider reaching impact that extends into the community and influences social causes.
Being a leader requires having people that choose to follow you.
Trust must be established before anyone will make the decision to follow you. Trust doesn’t emerge simply because a customer makes a decision to buy something. Trust is not a checklist. Fulfilling all your responsibilities does not create trust. Trust is a feeling that begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain. You must earn trust by communicating and demonstrating that you share the same values and beliefs.
You will never be seen as a true leader until you inspire those around you.
Once you do, magical things begin to happen. Imagine what your company would be like when customers want to buy from you, investors want to back you, employees want to work for you, and everyone is energized by your presence. Be astonishing. Be electrifying. Be the Chief Inspiration Officer for your department and your organization!
The great leaders of our time seem to demonstrate a fearlessness that we aspire to. But what may appear as a lack of fear is actually courage in the face of fear.
Great leaders are passionate and committed to their cause and their mission. They believe so wholeheartedly in themselves that they are not easily daunted by nay-sayers or critics, and are thus able to remain on course when many would lose traction. A great leader knows who they are and understands why they are driven. As a result, they have a confidence that is born from truly believing in themselves and their cause. This is not the false or fickle confidence buoyed by praise or rank, but a solid certainty that lends them the boldness and courage to do what needs to be done.
You will not be an inspirational leader if you’re just asking people to do things, you should show them how it’s done.
Be an example of kindness, be compassionate to less fortunate people, and show perseverance in your work. Being an example is easy but to be a good example, this will test your mind and heart. It’s not about what you do, it’s about what you want people to do after you set an example for them. To be a good leader, you should also be encouraging to others who may not be there yet. Most of the time people are shy about their talents and skills but if you really know that they can do it, the best thing to do is to encourage them to shine. Leaders will always speak positively about others on the team, so the people around us will feel comfortable talking to us.
Lesson #6: Leaders Are Not Conventional
It’s easy to fall into a pattern. It’s only natural to apply your knowledge of a process, that you know works, to similar projects. You might think to yourself: I know an effective way to do this, why fix something that isn’t broken? Effective leaders are innovative, and encourage unconventional thinking in themselves and those they lead. They recognize that thinking outside the box is the best way to remain creative and responsive to constant and on-going change.
Leaders commonly feel pressured to follow other’s footsteps to success.
This pressures many leaders to do things that may not in the best interest of their organizations and, more importantly, their employees. Leaders must be capable of breaking the mold in order to create and innovate their markets. Companies like Starbucks, Costco, and Zappos are companies commonly acknowledged for generously rewarding their employees with above average benefits and compensation packages that show their employees how important their personal development is to the organization. Practices such as these go a long way to show your followers that you care.
Sometimes you need to break the rules to be the best leader you can be.
Creative thinkers are able to easily find answers to unsolved questions. They weigh up the facts and are not afraid to try new approaches. This type of team leader can find the solution to a technical, scientific or social problem by going against the grain and questioning the typical way that things have been done in the past.
Whenever possible, take a wider perspective and oscillate between uncommon content!
Breakthrough thinking and creativity often come from making uncommon connections. Keep widening the lens aperture to take in different and broader perspectives that could make sense. The key is to oscillate between seemingly unrelated topics, concepts, or issues to find the uncommon connection that causes a different view or an idea to move outside the box. Don’t discount anything as unrelated or unconnected.
Your box is the set of rules and fears that govern the way you live and do business. It is what makes you feel structured and secure.
And it also makes you rigid and inflexible. Your box was built by you — probably without you even realizing it. You are the architect of your box. You are the one who built it up and only you can tear it down. And you need to do it now, because you aren’t the only one trapped in it — everyone who works for you is stuck in there too. Make a conscious decision to let go of whatever it is that is holding you back. Instead of worrying about what will happen, ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” You will not fail if you do not try — but you will not succeed either. So get out of the box… and get out of your own way.
Innovative thinking emphasizes change.
Taking different perspectives, questioning the status quo, thinking unconventionally — these all involve breaking from the norm. Make it a point to try something new or do something differently. Spread a blanket on the living room floor and have a picnic. Swap your desk chair for a stability ball. Take a different jogging path, try a different grocery store, or sample a book from a new genre. Breaking everyday boxes will keep your mind flexible.
We follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.
Why do you get up in the morning? What inspires you to do what you do? Is your career aligned with a meaningful purpose?
Most people don’t have good answers to these questions. Maybe that’s why we often feel unfulfilled, restless or apathetic about our work. Today, people want more than to make a living, we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. The best leaders are the ones who have a strong and clearly defined purpose and know how to distillate it into the organization.
Leadership is not a rank. While there are people that have authority, that does not make them a leader.
There are people who have no authority, but they themselves are leaders. We call them leaders because they go first, they take the risk before anyone else does. They choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe, protected and so that they may gain. When they do, the response is incredible. Their people will sacrifice for them, give them their blood, sweat and tears to see that their leaders vision comes to life.
When you trust people, they rise to the occasion. And when everything goes right, you share the credit with your people. Never forget who you are.
Simon Sinek leaves us with some very valuable lessons to improve ourselves personally and professionally. What leadership lessons have made the biggest impact in your life? Share your thoughts with our fellow Geeknackers in the comments below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.