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What Great Leadership Looks Like

What Great Leadership Looks Like

Simon Sinek is an optimist. He believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. Described as “a visionary thinker with a rare intellect,” Simon teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. With a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home every day feeling fulfilled by their work, Simon is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. writes about Simon’s latest book, Leaders Eat Last:

If you’re lucky, you’ve experienced it yourself: when there’s great leadership, we flourish. “As social animals, we need leaders that make us feel that we’re moving forward, that our efforts have value to a greater cause, and that someone is watching out for us,” says Simon Sinek, author of the new Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. “That only happens with people who make us feel like we’re part of something.” Under those circumstances, we offer our best selves to the collective project.

But there’s a flip side: “When we don’t feel that there’s someone looking out for us and offering a sense of belonging, we become paranoid and self-interested.” Unfortunately, that’s how many people feel these days in their companies – or even their countries. Says Sinek, “We mistrust government, we don’t trust leadership, we think corporations are bad, and management is bad.”

If leadership is failing, how can it be reformed? Sinek, who came to prominence with his TED talk and book Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, points to an unlikely inspiration. “I think Lady Gaga embodies all of the principles of great leadership,” he says. “She stands for something. Her message is positive. She gives people something they believe in for the long term. She gives a sense of belonging to those who previously struggled to feel like they belonged.”

Fundamentally, he says, leaders recognize it’s not about them. “There is no difference between leadership and parenting,” says Sinek. “What is a good parent? A parent is someone who sacrifices for another human being…The reason we have kids is because there is no greater feeling than making these sacrifices and then seeing the person for whom you cared and sacrifice grow up and do something good in the world.” True leaders take the same kind of pride in the success of their charges, whether it’s a boss helping his employees, a coach motivating her team, or a military officer guiding his troops.

Some people are “born leaders,” says Sinek, but it’s a skill anyone can learn with practice. “It’s not a short term play, and you don’t become a leader overnight,” he says. “You don’t make a couple of big decisions and people look at you and it will be like, ‘Wow! What a great leader.’” Instead, it’s about leading others consistently and allowing them to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment. “Good leaders put themselves and others in positions where mistakes can be made and tolerated,” he says. “That doesn’t mean they won’t hurt, it doesn’t mean they won’t cost, but it means they won’t sink the ship.” It’s through safe trial and error that people really learn how to succeed.

By Dorie Clark/, 2014