20 reasons why business leadership is about behaviour, not where someone sits on the org chart
by Christian Borkowski
I recently had the pleasure of spending a morning with Simon Sinek. You may be familiar with Simon’s famous TED presentations “Start with Why”, “Leaders eat last”, and more recently “Why great leaders make you feel safe”. If you haven’t seen them you should definitely check them out. They really are great presentations.
On this particular morning Simon talked about leadership—specifically his views on what leadership is and what it isn’t. As you can imagine, his talk was inspiring. But what was even more important for me is that his ideas about business leadership matched my own: that it’s defined by behaviour, not position.
And that’s important, because it means we can all become leaders who inspire and influence others, while still following the leaders who inspire and influence us. In fact, the behavioural traits of leaders and followers are quite similar.
What leadership is (and isn’t)
After Simon’s talk, I combined his ideas and mine to come up with a list of 20 attributes that all leaders seem to share. How many do you agree with?
1. Leaders create a safe environment of trust and cooperation for the people they lead so they can feel safe, happy and fulfilled.
2. Leaders take care of the people in their charge.
3. Rather than trying to find the ‘right’ people, leaders create an environment that attracts the ‘right’ people.
4. Knowing that the best way to lead a business is to lead its people, leaders will lead and nurture their people first and the business second.
5. Leaders care more about the growth of their people than the growth of the business.
6. People love to work for great leaders, and so good leadership will lead to higher performance.
7. Leaders have a positive outlook, and will stand for something—not against
8. Leaders know that business is all about humans seeking out other humans that make them feel safe.
9. Leaders are vulnerable, and assure those in their charge that they can open up and admit mistakes without fear of repercussion to create a ‘circle of safety’.
10. Leadership is all about acts of kindness.
11. Leadership is about consistency rather than intensity—just like fitness training.
12. Leadership is empathy, not judgement
13. Leadership is about listening, and wanting to hear the answer.
14. Leadership is a series of incremental acts—at home, in business and socially— that create a feeling of trust
15. Leadership is letting your people “have a good day”.
16. Leadership is about being the leader you wanted to have.
17. Leadership is about inspiring, nurturing, praising and encouraging people to be the best they can be.
18. Anyone can be a leader because leadership comes from your actions, not your position.
19. Business leaders let their emerging leaders run projects to help them learn to become leaders. After all, they can’t exactly ‘break’ the company.
20. Leadership is a choice—a choice to take care of other human beings.
Anyone can be a leader
I’m not saying that any of these traits are game changers. My guess is you inherently know everything I’ve listed here. But it’s still worth taking the time to remind ourselves that leadership comes from trust. And that trust needs to be earned.
So if you want to be a leader, don’t try buying people’s trust or ordering them to trust you. And don’t even think about making it one of their KPIs. Just look after them, help and nurture them, and create a safe environment for them to grow and become business leaders themselves.
And then tell them about Simon’s TED presentations.