Simon Sinek, a renowned name in leadership coaching. He is much more than a management consultant (based out of New York), TED, and corporate speaker, evangelist, and a celebrated author of bestseller books like “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last”. He speaks across various podiums on leadership and strategy. Simon Sinek contributes to the society through his not-for-profit organizational works.
Here are Simon’s top 3 studies that has impacted my attitude towards leadership and being the best.
1. How Leaders Inspire Action:
This is probably the most popular Ted talk of Mr Sinek.
Simon says, all big leaders, think/ act/communicate the exact same way i.e. they don’t wait for things to happen, they make them happen. Be it Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Wright Bros all of them are sought to follow the same pattern. Surprisingly, it is complete opposite what all others usually think.
So let us analyse the situation by taking the example of APPLE, as a consumer electronics company. Why and how they became the world leaders in so many spaces? Why there is not a single competitor at the top alongside APPLE as a consumer electronics company?
It is because of the sheer leadership abilities of the company’s great visionaries who stick to their vision and objectives and proved the world that with strong determination and perseverance you can be at the top, no matter what others say/think.
The people at the helm took a simple vow, that to produce and deliver products which exceed the customer expectation with a great customer experience. Of course, there is a price for everything, but the quality of a product trades off the preciousness of the premium products. Let us observe the below diagram to understand how it worked for them.
IMG 1 represents the strategy of a company wherein firstly they boast about the product (WHAT is it), then they tell you how do they do it (better quality, peer comparison, in a budget theory, better customer service etc). They may or may not tell you the WHY part, which is most important.
Whereas in IMG 2 ie the Golden Circle or the inside out theory, the great leaders thought it differently. So happened at Apple as well. They told you the story behind the product and WHY did they want you to have that excellent mobile phone experience, Why they believe that you deserve the best, Why did they emphasize the quality. And then by default, organically the HOW and WHAT passed on to the customer. The customer immediately relates to your story or the spontaneous emotion behind what you BELIEVE. Everything else fell in place. So did happen for other great leaders who thought differently and inspired action among the team. Clearly, we can take out from that the Inside Out theory takes a big leap in any universal market in the long run.
2. What “Leaders Eat Last” means
The title is the name of a book written by Mr Sinek. He says real relationship means you eat last. Leadership in business is not just leading a bunch of colleagues/subordinates, it is to have a real empathetic relationship with them. It has to be from inside.
A leader always considers his colleagues as the most dependable people around and stands by them when required. He says, always face the danger first, don’t put the newly recruited trainee in the jeopardy, the layer system never works when slog is on war-footing. You have to throw yourself into the shock before it takes on to your fellow colleague.
I carefully observe Simon enthusiastically remembering a recent photograph he had seen during the Kenya Shooting. The picture was taken by a photographer who happened to be inside the building, It is chaotic, he says. The image hunts him every day, it shows a mother lying on top of her kid to protect him from the wrath of the militant. In a real world, that’s leadership. It’s a biological leadership, though business leadership is no different than this. The only thing you got to understand is that how true and real you are to your subordinates/colleagues.
A leader’s acts are scrutinized when he fails, but the work of his colleague/subordinates count when he succeeds.
3. What Does It Mean To Lead?
You are allowed to take shortcuts; you are very much allowed to do what others are not doing. But what you are not allowed is to push someone and be in the middle of the queue. He goes on, you should go after the thing you want, and yes by any means you should also get it but not at the cost of fiddling others.
Simon explained one incident when he visited Quantico Marine Base in the US. One of the colonels threw one marine out of the job just because he slept few minutes on duty. Mr Sinek asked the colonel why it is a big deal where there are many others patrolling and this guy just dozed for few minutes, maybe because of heavily loaded duty schedule. Then the colonel explained, the marine wasn’t suspended for sleeping on duty, rather for denying the fact when he was asked. Later on, he accepted it when shown the recording proofs. The colonel reiterated you are allowed few mistakes here, but you shouldn’t repeat them, most importantly you should agree and take the responsibility of what you have done.
A leader cannot lie to himself, it is too difficult and if he does then he isn’t a true leader. Discipline and accountability are the two most important traits of a true leader in action.
The other side is asking for help. And accept help. Being a leader or boss, do not pretend that you know it all. Most leaders believe that their leadership comes from their intelligence. It simply doesn’t. Leadership and intelligence can be poles apart.
Here, Mr Sinek goes on to tell this very interesting story to explain this.
He is a member of RAND Corporation (is an American non-profit global policy think tank) as an adjunct staff member, where he advises on matters of military innovation and planning. Therefore, he gets to meet a lot of people from the defense. He met one Retd. Capt of Sub-Marine, a gallant commander of his time. This Capt. Says he spent a year on a boat which he was given the command for a specific mission. Two weeks before, he was allotted a different ship, of which he has no idea. One fine day, they submerged the ship and run a pilot test undersea. The colonel ordered “AHEAD 2”, a specific signal to move the ship. The ship didn’t move an inch. He also noticed his junior ordered the same to the navigation team. So he asked the junior to find out what’s wrong? Then to his utter surprise and embarrassment, he realised that the boat didn’t have that particular movement setting, in fact, the boat was quite an advanced piece of engineering. Ultimately he learns about the boat from all his subordinates before running the 2nd pilot.
Hence, Simon says leadership isn’t all about the Capt. Knowing all the answers, it means to trust his crew knows more than he did. You should admit things you don’t know and learn as quick as possible. In the meanwhile, you may push the authority down, this shows a trusted build up at the bottom.
When you trust people, they rise to the occasion. And when everything goes right you share the credit with your people. Never forget how you started.