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The Courage to Lead: 5 Lessons In Leadership From Simon Sinek

If you think you know what leadership means, be prepared to think again. Global change agent and revolutionary leadership evangelist, Simon Sinek, is about to rock your world. As a two-time, best-selling author, with the third most viewed TED talk of all time, He severs ties to outdated thought patterns about leadership and addresses the one characteristic that all effective leaders must possess: courage.

Prepare yourself to let go of what you thought you knew, and get ready to discover the essence of true leadership. In this week’s episode on Inside Quest, Simon will unveil these five powerful lessons on why it takes courage to be a leader.

ADAPTED BEYOND THE CONVENTIONAL BOX

Fortune 500 companies, the United States Government, the United Nations, and multiple military personnel turn to Simon for his unconventional wisdom and leadership principles. It is not surprising that the author of “Start With Why” traced back to early civilization to uncover the truths about our conventional, workplace model. “We forget…that we are a legacy machine, working in a very different environment than we were designed for.”

 

Society has propagated a watered down version of leadership, covering up true commitment and sacrifice with empty rhetoric and a lack of concern and awareness of the human condition. “In other words, we're not made for this.” Although humans exhibited the ability to “survive and thrive, even as the environment around us changed,” the fundamental traits inherent to our human nature remain unchanged. “The rules of being human are exactly the same.”

 

Here are the hard facts: “We are social animals, and we respond to the environments we're in, always.” Understanding where we come from provides the framework necessary to construct a strong foundation; it takes courage to build a new normal.

DEFINE YOUR LEADERSHIP BY WISDOM,

NOT HIERARCHY

Remember playing “Simon says” as a kid? For those who may not know, it is a classic follow-the-leader game where you mindlessly did whatever the leader of the game, or “Simon”, told you to do. Simon would give directives and expect full cooperation, simply because he or she said “Simon says.”

Well, Simon Sinek says that there is a difference between simply doing as you are told and following a true leader.

“Leadership has nothing to do with rank; leadership is a responsibility.”​

A fancy title, a corner office, and a few direct reports might indicate authority, but it does not guarantee that you are a leader. Disrupting the common misconception that authority is synonymous with leadership, Simon adds, “I know many, many people who sit at the highest levels of organizations who are not leaders.” In addition, managers often confuse delegating authority with leadership. “We do as they tell us because they have authority over us, but we wouldn't follow them.”

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

There is no intensive seminar or certificate that can magically pronounce you a leader. Promotions do not automatically make you a leader. Leadership is a skill that takes practice and courage. “If you have the courage, you can lead me, and I will follow you.”

FUEL YOUR AMBITION WITH

ENCOURAGEMENT FROM OTHERS

Have you ever watched a trapeze artist perform death defying acts without a safety net? The answer is likely no. The only reason the performer has the courage to let go is because they know the safety net will catch them if they fall. Likewise, relationships are the safety net that gives you the courage to make mistakes. Knowing “that someone has your back” significantly decreases a fear of failing. And if you do fail, knowing that someone will be beside you saying, "I gotcha. You can do this,” gives you the courage to get back up again.

All leaders must have courage, but “courage is not some deep internal fortitude…[it] comes from the support we feel from others.” Courage breeds inspiration. As a leader “when you act with courage, that in turn will inspire those in your organization to also act with courage.”

DISTINGUISH BETWEEN SHORT-TERM

AND LONG-TERM BENEFITS

Anyone who works out understands the difference between short-term and long-term gains. We learn to make choices based on the results we desire to achieve. “You know that one [meal] is good for you and one is not, despite what it may taste like.” Expecting overnight improvement is unrealistic; however, unswerving effort over time yields significant results.

 

The same principles can be applied to business; some metrics are “easier to prove over time.”

True leadership is built on principles that are difficult to measure. “It's very easy to measure revenues, and profits, and market share, [but] how do you measure trust?”

 

Simon sums up trust perfectly in the following statement: “When we feel that our leaders care more about us…than some short-term gain, then we will…make sacrifices of all kinds to see that our leader's vision is advanced…not for them, [but] for ourselves.”

 

Companies thrive when leaders show humanity. It takes courage to shift from a short-term to a long-term benefit mindset and cultivate the right environment that inspires consistent effort to achieve results.

DEMAND A PLEASUREABLE WORKING ENVIRONMENT

Everybody talks about the importance of culture, yet nobody seems to be focused on building it. If you really have a strong corporate culture, the people will think of each other like brothers and sisters.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Everybody, the vast majority should get to wake up and say, "I love my job." It is a right. It is a God-given right that we should love where we work. And we should demand it, we should demand that our leaders provide an environment in which we want to come, where we want to care about each other, where we feel safe to express our vulnerabilities, and our fears, and our concerns, that we're open to correction and discipline and feedback, that we're not defensive, because we know that it's being given to help us improve and grow, and we wanna improve and grow.

I believe that loving your work is a right and not a privilege.

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