The sacrifice part of the leadership bargain
Leadership is not a licence to do less; it is a responsibility to do more, according to Simon Sinek in his book Leaders East Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. Leadership takes work. It takes time and energy. The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.
Interesting statements made by the author include:
- Exceptional organisations have cultures in which the leaders provide cover from above and the people on the ground look out for each other.
- The leaders of great organisations do not see people as a commodity to be managed to help grow the money.
- Work-life balance has nothing to do with the hours we work or the stress we suffer; it has to do with where we feel safe.
- Most people would never get rid of their children during hard times, so how can we lay off our people under the same conditions?
- The leaders of organisations who rise through the ranks not because they want it but because the tribe keeps offering higher status out of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice are the true leaders worthy of our trust and loyalty.
I was somewhat uncomfortable with the author’s tendency to explain human motivation by reference to evolutionary biology and the chemicals dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and cortisol. In a book which argues that leadership is all about empathy and providing a safe and respectful environment in which everyone can thrive, it seems odd that the author apparently reduces humans to mere chemical machines.
In my opinion this book contains an important message which senior leaders of organisations need to read and take to heart, although I expect that very few will be able to read through the book without feeling convicted.