Updated: Aug 2
I first heard Simon Sinek speak at a leadership conference more than a dozen years ago. Since then, I’ve read several of his books and listened to his lectures and TED Talks. I always come away from my interactions with Sinek impressed with his easy to emulate, down to earth approach to leadership concepts and working with others. While much of his work is focused on leaders in business, I believe his concepts are universal in nature and relevant whether leading in the marketplace, the home or community. I was reminded of the work Sinek has done over the years when I came across the following article in a recent issue of Inc. Magazine which I share for your consideration.
by Christine Lagorio-Chafkin Inc.
The author of Start With Why has spent a career redefining servant leadership. He reflects on his biggest lessons learned.
IN 2009, SIMON SINEK delivered a TED Talk that explored his notion that all great leaders share a trait—what he called “knowing the why.” It has become the third-most-watched TED Talk of all time. Some 14 years later, the best-selling author’s ideas continue to resonate with entrepreneurs, and he’s now scaling his message of servant leadership through his new online learning platform, the Optimism Company. Begun as a pandemic pivot, it boasts 20 employees working to infuse a spirit of helping others into the self-help industry. Sinek, 49, says it’s all part of his dream that more people might channel their human skills so we can better “learn to cooperate, and take care of one another.” That’s just one of the many ideas Sinek’s collected along his way.
1. MAKE ROOM FOR BLANK SPACE
Like so many of us, I’m recovering from feeling like I have to be productive every moment of every day. I started building in blank time in my day, random two-or three-hour blocks when no one could schedule anything. When we constantly engage our “thinking” brain, we have access only to our conscious thoughts. Accessing our unconscious brain—often the source of our best ideas—takes blank space. You have to allow gaps for the mind to ruminate.
2. NEVER, EVER STOP LEARNING
When you start a business, you suddenly find yourself being a leader, and that’s a skill that needs to be learned. It typically comes through trial and error, a road that’s often longer and bumpier than it need be. For a smoother path, the best leaders read, they watch talks, and they talk to other leaders—not just about fundraising, but also about leadership.
3. HAVE A PURPOSE, NOT A SLOGAN
Every business seems to have a purpose statement or vision statement on its website. Not because they actually have a purpose, but because it’s fashionable. Instead, it should be the standard by which you uphold your ethics and integrity, and by which you make financial decisions. Otherwise, you end up doing things that violate the very purpose on which your company is purportedly built. It’s insidious.
4. GO BEYOND GROWTH
I do not understand the obsession with growth. Why does your company exist? Growth is not the answer. It’s a result. To build a company solely for growth means you’re going to make decisions only to grow. And integrity, ethics, quality—all of those things will necessarily suffer as a result. Growth is an ideal, it’s not an absolute. It is also not a way to build a long-lasting, successful business.
5. ALWAYS SHOW UP TO GIVE
When someone walks onstage and starts telling you all their credentials and their URL, that means they want followers, they want business, they want clients. That’s the biggest lesson I teach in public speaking: Put your ambitions aside, and care about enriching the people in front of you.
6. OPTIMISM IS IDEAL; PESSIMISM IS NECESSARY
Every pessimist I know says, “I’m not a pessimist. I’m a realist.” And they all think optimists are naive. Let’s be clear: I’m not against pessimists. I’m against only a pessimist who stands on the sidelines and jeers. You should want to work with people who see a problem and then roll up their sleeves to help solve it.
7. YOU DON’T NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING
When I started my business, I thought I had to have all the answers. I believed my credibility relied on my intelligence and understanding of everything. That’s so stupid. The biggest lesson I learned was to say, “I don’t know,” and to ask for help. The effect has been profound.