I recently ran across an excellent video where Simon Sinek, who is currently very popular in the employee training arena, spoke at Microsoft about leadership. It was not your typical “5 Characteristics of a Good Leader” type of talk. In fact, Mr. Sinek asserted that there is really only ONE commonality of good leaders: Courage. He contends that leadership actually has nothing to do with rank, it is rather a choice to take care of the people you lead. This is a summary of his video entitled “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t”.
Leadership opportunities come in many forms: a job, volunteering, parenting, etc., and they are all similar in that the telltale sign of a good leader is whether their subordinates would willingly follow them, given a choice. In a work environment where an authority lacks leadership skills, you will find disengaged employees, people who spend their time and energy trying to protect themselves, and high turnover. Organizations with this type of work environment are not efficient and they do not innovate; They suffer.
We are social animals, and we respond to the environments we are in. The leader sets the tone, and in order to thrive, it is their responsibility to create the right environment for those they lead. A positive environment is one where there is trust and cooperation. These two elements are actually essential for human survival, and they are the natural responses to feelings of safety and camaraderie.
So, how do you create a work environment with these feelings?
- Put people first. Numbers will not rescue you in hard times, people will. Numbers are not innovative, people are.
- Be honest. Consistent honesty is integrity. The response to integrity is commitment and loyalty. Be honest about everything, even screw ups.
- Have humility. Do not confuse humility with weakness. Humility is being open to the ideas of others.
- Allow others to fail. People take their jobs more seriously, and they ask each other for help, and if they have personal investment in the outcome. We want to have the opportunity to work hard and have accountability.
- View failures as opportunities for learning and innovation. You cannot measure progress in small efforts, it is only measurable in consistent progress over time.
- Willingness to sacrifice for others
- Discipline when necessary
- Providing opportunities & education
- Sometimes helping employees get up & sometimes making employees get up themselves
- Building confidence & helping others to achieve
Our own happiness, our own fulfillment, our health, and the success of the organization are tied entirely to our willingness to serve those in our tribe; To look after each other. View each other as your brothers and sisters. We do not always like our brothers and sisters, but we protect and care for them.
If you find yourself in a job that feels unsafe, is your best strategy to exit? NO! Your best strategy is to step up and be the leader you want to have. Find someone you trust and commit to looking after them. Together commit to looking after the person to your right and the one to your left. View leadership as a responsibility to other human beings, not a rank to be attained.