“The cost of leadership is self interest.”
Says Simon Sinek in his remarkable talk “Why Leaders Eat Last” at a recent Behance conference. The talk is based on his upcoming book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, which will be released on January 7th.
In the book and in this talk Sinek talks about how the chemicals in our body–the very chemicals that enabled homo sapiens to thrive–can be used to help or hurt our organizations and our very lives. Importantly, our leaders play a key role in how those chemicals are distributed in our body.
Endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and cortisol are important to our survival. We need them, in balance. When unbalanced, they not only create physical and psychological problems in us, but in our corporations. And our leaders have a direct bearing on the amount of those chemicals in our bodies.
Alas, most of our “leaders” are failing us. They are violating the very contract that put them in the position of leadership.
We’ve all been asked the question “what is leadership?” at some point. Or we’ve asked ourselves how we might become better leaders. Simon Sinek provides the best definition of leadership I’ve heard.
“If you decide to look after the person to the left and to the right of you, you have become a leader.”
That’s it. When you extend the circle of safety, you become a leader. Not when you balance the books of your company on the backs of your employees by laying them off to make the numbers. While you collect a massive bonus for yourself and justify it as “increasing shareholder value.”
And then wonder why your employees aren’t innovative. Or why they don’t get it when you give them a pittance of restricted stock units. Or wonder why employees bolt for the doors at the slightest hint of trouble or for just a few more bucks. When we’re not safe, we tend to look out for number one.
The saddest thing about our leaders’ failure is that humans are not wired to look out for number one. We’re built to look out for each other and to help each other succeed. We just need real leaders.
The talk is worth watching. Oh, I happen to really like it because the title has been my #1 leadership value for a number of years!