July 2017

Why good leaders make you feel safe

I recently listened to a Simon Sinek TED video in which he talks about what makes a good leader. He says it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staff into a circle of trust. But creating trust, cooperation and safety – especially in an uneven economy – means taking on big responsibilities.

Trust, cooperation and safety are all feelings (not instructions), so you have to instil those feelings in others, not instruct them to feel them. Unfortunately, you can’t instruct someone to trust you or instruct two people to cooperate.

You may wonder where these feelings come from, then … Sinek says that a million years ago the world was filled with danger – the type of danger that could reduce someone’s lifespan. In order to survive, people had to work together – and that created a circle of trust. Where people depended on each other for safety, an environment of trust and cooperation was created. It allowed you to fall asleep at night – knowing that someone is watching out for the dangers around.

Today, in the modern era, the world is also filled with danger; things that frustrate our lives and are out to destroy our success. It can be the ups and downs of the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market, or even a new technology that can make your business obsolete. Sometimes it’s your competitors, who are trying to put you out of business. These are a constant and will never go away.

The only variables are the conditions inside your business – and that is where leadership matters. Because it’s the leader that sets the tone. When leaders make a choice to put the lives of people in the organisation first and sacrifice their own comforts and tangible results so their people can feel safe, remarkable things will happen.

When people feel safe in an organisation, they will combine their talents and strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize opportunities for the organisation.

Sinek says that the closest analogy he can give of a great leader is like being a parent. Think about it. What makes a great parent? We want to give our children great opportunities, a good education and discipline them when necessary so they can grow up and achieve more than we did. Great leaders want exactly the same  – they want to provide opportunities to their people, educate them and discipline them when necessary, build their self-confidence, give them the opportunity to try and fail – so that they can achieve more than we can ever imagine for ourselves.

Charlie Kim is the CEO of a company called Next Jump. He makes the point that if you had hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never to it. Then why do we consider laying off people inside our organisation?  He implemented a policy of lifetime employment. If you get a job at Next Jump you cannot get fired for performance issues. In fact, if you have issues they will teach you and support you – just like you would do with one of your children.

That is why people are so angered by CEOs of companies that are in trouble but who receive millions in bonuses. It’s not the numbers that anger people – it’s the fact that these CEOs are willing to sacrifice others in their own interest. Great leaders will never sacrifice people to save numbers – they would rather sacrifice numbers to save people.

EDITOR

Gerinda Engelbrecht

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