If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more – you are a leader.  ~ John Quincy Adams

….. and if your actions are NOT, well then

Leaders must truly care what happens to those they lead.   To have a truly great organization, you must hire and retain the best people.  The kind of people you are thrilled to have.   Without these kinds of employees, you are choosing to limit your growth and limit your success.

All employees receive a paycheck.   So “I pay them to” isn’t good enough for top talent.   Great employees have options.  And all of those options include a check.

Retaining top-tier talent requires leadership.   Great leaders make their people should feel protection from all layers of the organization.   The way that any organization can achieve this is through empathy.

To earn trust, you have to extend trust.  People care for others when they feel cared for.   Employees should come to work for each other, not the company.  And to truly care for your customers, the people interacting with them must care for the mission and each other.

There must be a Circle of Trust..  A Circle of Safety.    The level of trust and safety that allows them to try to achieve great things, fail, and not fear reprisal.

Leaders of great companies do not see their people as a commodity to be managed to grow the money.   These companies don’t sacrifice the people to save the numbers.

They use the money as a way to grow the people.

That way the people are the fuel that burns to grow a bigger and more robust organization.

They feed the hearts and souls of the people who work there.   And, in return, they give everything they got to make the organization grow and grow and grow.

You must see the money as subordinate to the people.   If you do not see the money as subordinate to the people, you need to focus on getting better people.   People who you truly feel that, by having them there and doing good work, will naturally make more money in the long-term.

Being a leader is like being a parent, and  each employee should be treated like a new member of the family.   Like a husband being handed his bride from the father saying “you are responsible from here.”    When we do that, the employees will take on the name of the company, with pride, like it was their family name.   They will wear the logo with pride.  They will defend the company’s name as if it was their own.

Weak leaders only extend the circle of safety to their fellow executives, and a few chosen others.  Without the protection of the leaders, everyone else left to work alone, or in their own tribes, for their own safety.

Silos form and politics ensue.  The spread of info slows, mistakes are hidden, and unease replaces any sense of security.  These bad leaders are more interested in their fiefdom than their people.

I get it – Everybody can say “work is work” and books are idealistic.   We can all recognize that the idea that a company where everyone feels safe and works together sounds great.   Most leaders intellectually see the benefit of putting the well-being of their people first.   But we have to run a business.

We need customers!

This stuff seems hard and hard to measure. The ability to prove ROI is impossible.   So we say, the choice to put people first just is not a reality.  The threats from the outside are just too great to worry this much about the people on the inside.

To that, we say: I can’t be an idealist to believe in this.   Because these organizations exist and they thrive.  This IS what the great organizations do.   As a best-selling author Sinek has access to them.   You do not.

Trying to build our organization in any other way is counter-productive.   It’s evolutionary.   The systems inside us that protect us from danger and encourage us to repeat behavior that is in our best interest respond to the environment that we live and work.

If we sense danger, our defenses go up.   If we feel safe in our environment, in our tribes, and our organization – we relax and are more open to trust and cooperation.

This why humans evolved way faster than other animals.   500,000 years ago, humans were not much more resourceful than elephants.   However look at the pace of progress since then.   To the extent that we are responsible for the care of other animals.  Our primitive minds still look for signs of threat though.   And a majority of our organizations are designed contrary to this.

What was it that moved Humankind at exponentially faster rates than other animals?   It was learning to work together, for the common good of the group.   Without cooperation, Bill Gates and Elon Musk are roaming the plains alone scavenging for food.

The question is:  How did we get here, and what do we do about it?   Simon Sinek covers this an more in “Leaders Eat Last”.   And we will cover it in this blog series – every Tuesday.