“When we felt safe amongst our own, the natural reaction was trust and cooperation.” In this Ted talk, Simon Sinek reveals what inspires people to get behind their leader to give then everything and the ancient precedent for building this kind of trust.
In a word: safety. Safety is fundamental to trust and trust is essential to inspire others to act. If the aim is simply hitting short-term goals then coercion and authority will suffice. Yet most leaders, whether deserving of the title or not, yearn to be inspirational. For Sinek, making your people feel safe is paramount to trust and inspired leadership. “When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first…so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.”
Make your people feel safe by giving them your trust. Trust your own hiring decisions. Trust yourself to get out of the way and allow others to mobilise their skills, creative thinking and desire to advance. This requires a healthy dose of self-awareness.
Many ‘leaders’ would categorically state that their teams are safe to make decisions, to implement new methods and to challenge the status quo while their star players drift off on a wave of resentment, frustration and apathy, having hit their heads on one too many brick walls. A good test of your own ability to trust your teams and put their ‘safety’ first, is to notice your gut response to this declaration from Sinek: “Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.”
Would you? Really?
Authoritarian leadership will never breed trust in the long term and it’s unlikely that leaders can expect their teams to follow willingly into battle if they’re not trusted to complete even the simplest task freely. Trust is reciprocal. When it’s present, it produces an effortless and virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. “They will give us their blood and sweat and tears to see that their leader’s vision comes to life, and when we ask them, “Why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person?” they all say the same thing: “Because they would have done it for me.”
Be an inspiring leader by trusting your teams explicitly. Show them that you put their safety before short term goals and watch what happens the next time you need to marshal the troops.