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Team-Building: Strong Teams Begin With Strong Leaders, and Leaders Eat Last
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Team-Building: Strong Teams Begin With Strong Leaders, and Leaders Eat Last - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Strong Teams Begin With Strong Leaders, and Leaders Eat Last

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Strong Teams Begin With Strong Leaders, and Leaders Eat Last

Some leaders flex their muscles and brains, leading by the authority their knowledge and skills have blessed them with. Others base their power in the ability to foster communities of caring and empowerment. While both leadership styles can lead to success, Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (Portfolio / Penguin, 2014), argues that the former is unsustainable and can lead to catastrophe, while the other is steady, reliable, and sustainable over the long haul.

First laying the bio-chemical argument for humans’ need to feel safe, valued, and included, Sinek provides examples of the roles endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin have in giving people a sense of pleasure, fulfillment, belonging, and accomplishment. With anecdotes spanning the ages from prehistoric human times to recent corporate successes and failures, the author offers the case that the basic, chemical responses that built societies and caused one species to rise above the others explain the rise of some companies and the downfall of others.

Sinek expands his argument from the biological level to a more practical, social application, giving specific examples of executive managerial decisions that at first seem to fly in the face of the kinds of management many of us are used to, including:

  • The big-box retailer that increased employee wages in the midst of a 27 percent decline in sales because employees need more money in lean times, not less money,
  • The industrial chemical firm that encourages and rewards the sharing of ideas, even apparent failures, across departments throughout the company, because where an idea might not work in one place, it could be the much-needed answer in another,
  • The naval submarine captain who did away with subordinates’ use of the phrase “request permission to…” and replaced it with “I intend to…,”
  • The factory owner who got rid of time cards, took the lock off the spare parts cage, and offered desk workers and floor workers equal treatment and freedom, and
  • The tech company who implemented a Lifetime Employment policy, refusing to fire employees even for poor individual performance or costly mistakes.

It’s a very touchy-feely presentation, and Sinek goes frequently to such phrases as “Circle of Safety” and “Destructive Abundance.” While the approach might lean a bit mushy for some, it’s difficult to argue against the successes of the specific companies he holds up as models, many of them well-known to even casual readers. He writes, “Leaders of organizations who create a working environment better suited for how we are designed do not sacrifice excellence or performance simply because they put people first. Quite the contrary. These organizations are among the most stable, innovative, and high-performing companies in their industries.”

While managing is often about numbers, leadership is always about people, Sinek argues, and leaders who nurture the people around them create environments of well-being, loyalty, and excellence in a way not accomplished by muscular threats to job security, pay, or position. What makes good leaders is not an iron fist or a fondness for the spotlight, but a predilection for spending time and energy to do what they need to do in support and protection of their people.

 

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Team-Building: Strong Teams Begin With Strong Leaders, and Leaders Eat Last - Executive Leadership Articles

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