Leaders eat last – why some teams pull together and others don't
I believe Sinek’s main message in this book is that to be a leader is to put the interest of others ahead of your own. He takes examples from the military life of US marines, where the leaders, quite literally, eat last. More leaders and less managers which means leading with people first and statistics later for if you focus on the people, the numbers will follow.
Safety is a good measurement to evaluate a workplace culture. How appreciated do you feel at work and how much freedom do you have to do your job? The studies show that the lower in hierarchy a person is, the more likely they are to become sick but it’s not because of their position in the linear hierarchy, it’s because they generally do not feel like they’re in control of their job or their life. People need autonomy and whenever a manager dictates what they do, how they do it and when they do it, the less likely they are to be happy. Overmanaging will therefor destroy intrinsic motivation, performance and could eventually even cause a good worker to leave the company.
Sinek tells a story of a company called HayssenSandiacre, where empathy was incorporated into the company’s culture, creating an atmosphere of safety. One example of such empathy was when a worker’s wife had to have her leg amputated and the worker needed to be home with her but couldn’t because he was on hourly pay. His co-workers donated portions of their holidays to enable him paid leave. I’m sure this kind of “one for the team” thinking would increase the feeling of security and make employees feel more attached, rather than just being pawns for their managers to boss around. The CEO who changed HayssenSandiacre’s culture and introduced empathy saw their revenue nearly double from $55 million to $95 million.
“We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings.” – Sinek
“When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result.” (Sinek, 16) It should go without saying that the best way to destroy psychological safety is internal problems within the team. Open, respectful environment where people can trust each other produces safety and good performance should follow.
Leaders of course have a lot of responsibility when it comes to ensuring safety and I kind of like the metaphor Sinek paints in his book about the leaders being like the parents of a family, which is the company. Parents may be strict at times but a loving parent will also surely have empathy.
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. Only when a critical mass of employees feel like their leaders are working to help defend them from dangers outside can the company invite customers into their circle too.” (Sinek, 223) It’s often the employees who are most in touch with the company’s customers and if the employees feel dissatisfied with their company, they will not likely put in the required to make their customers happy. They might do what is required to close a deal, to ensure their own pay-check or a bonus but they won’t have the long-term goal in their mind. Who cares about the long-term goal when they don’t see a future in the company, right?
The real problem isn’t unmotivated employees though, it starts at the leadership of the company. Sinek challenges us to be the leaders we wish we had. Putting the short-term goal and quick rewards off the list and steering the organizations towards more balanced, lasting results and leading people rather than numbers. It takes more work and it’s a slow process but the studies show it is worth the effort.
Lähteet: Sinek, Simon (2014): Leaders eat last