Simon Sinek is a globally recognized thought leader. His 2009 TED Talk is one of their most viewed presentations of all time, and his “start with the why” mantra and business approach has revolutionized the way hundreds of thousands of people approach business and life. When considering leadership, he says “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in our charge.” This simple statement encapsulates the essence of effective leadership. It can be summed up in the more universal statement of the “golden rule”: treat others the way you would like to be treated.
This concept is easy to understand but difficult to practice. Why? Because it requires self-sacrifice. It is much easier to operate under the mindset of self-preservation. The ‘leader’ whose primary focus is self-preservation acts with the sole purpose of advancing his or her gain. The usual outcome is that those within his authority must sacrifice time, treasure, and peace to secure it. This approach to leadership is unsustainable. When you treat people as disposable, they automatically go into self-preservation mode which is not good for business. When you have a group of people all looking out for “number one,” there is not unity of purpose, which undermines all aspects of your organization.
There are two key practices which those in leadership positions can embrace in order to cultivate a productive environment.
First of all, be discreet and thoughtful in your interactions with coworkers. Those in your charge should never need to ask for their wages, and err on the side of overcompensation in situations where uncertainty arises as to what is due. This approach will foster genuine sentiments of gratitude and respect. Further, any critiques of work-performance should be done in a private and concise manner. Intimidation tactics produce resentment, not results.
Secondly, know your employees personally. Work interactions are human interactions. All relationships require investment of time and energy to produce results. In order to foster a team, there must be a baseline sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. This can never be accomplished amongst a group of strangers.
These are foundational practices. Fail to implement them, and no other perks will be able to counteract the ill-will your self-serving actions will generate.