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Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life that you love. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to inspire greatness not only in yourself but in those around you, then today’s show is a must watch.
Simon Sinek believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. Described as a visionary thinker with a rare intellect, Simon’s goal is to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home every day feeling fulfilled by their work. He is the author of two bestselling books: Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. He’s best known for popularizing the concept of why, which is the third most watched TED talk of all time. He speaks around the globe and has commented for local and national press, including the New York Times, Inc. Magazine, NPR, and Businessweek.
Simon, thank you so much for being here.
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
So we’ve known each other for years and I just wanna thank you for your work because I’ve shared Start With Why countless times on MarieTV before and with our B-Schoolers, so it’s great to finally have you in the chair.
Thank you. I really appreciate you having me spread the message.
Yeah, of course. So I want to take you back to when you had your own business and you lost your passion for what you were doing. And I was wondering if you could speak a little bit to how that experience led to your understanding and the whole concept of starting with why.
So a lot of people think that this concept of why was some sort of academic exercise that I went out and studied it, and I didn’t. That’s not how it began. As you said, it began out of pain. I owned my own small business, it was a strategic marketing consultancy, and superficially my life looked pretty good. I owned my own business, I made a decent living, we had incredible clients, and we did incredible work. Except after a few years of doing that, I sort of lost my passion for it. I didn’t want to wake up and do it again and I was actually very embarrassed by that because there are people who had real problems. Like, poor me. You know? And so I kept it to myself and I pretended. All of my energy went into pretending that I was more successful, happier, and more in control than I felt. And it wasn’t until a friend of mine came to me and sort of expressed concern like, “You’re different. Is everything ok?” And it wasn’t until I had sort of that safety net of someone close by that I had the courage to sort of not only face the problem but really confront it. And it was that that was the birth of this concept of why. There was a confluence of events. And I realized that every single organization, including my own career, functioned on 3 levels: what I did, how I did it, and why I did it. I knew what I did, that was easy to explain. How I did it was also pretty good. I was good at explaining what made me different or special than others. But I couldn’t tell you why I was doing it, and it was that missing piece that I became obsessed with. And once I found my why not only was my passion restored to levels that I’d never experienced before, but it put me on a trajectory that I couldn’t have been on without it. And I learned a lot of things from that experience. A lot.
Well, I know whenever I have mentioned your work or, you know, you spoke at one of our live events and we’ll often share your TED talk, it literally brings people to tears because there’s such a sense of alignment. And then, of course, naturally they want to focus their energy on why am I doing it? And I just think it’s so important and it feels like it was the perfect jump off point for your latest book. You know, and I know you’ve spent a lot of time with men and women in uniform, traveled around to military bases, and had a profound experience in Afghanistan. I was wondering if you can share some of that and how it led to Leaders Eat Last.
Yeah, I thought I was a one trick pony. You know, I thought this why thing… it was a good trick, I mean, don’t get me wrong, but…
It’s… are you kidding me? It’s an amazing trick. But I even love that you said that, I just want to interrupt that for a second because so many people have a great idea or we hear from folks in our audience who are like, “That’s it. I’m done. I don’t have any other good ideas. My creativity, out the window.”
That’s, you know, I was at peace with that. You know, and people would always ask me what’s next and I’m like, “I don’t know.” You know, it’s like the first thing was born out of pain. I was like, “I have no idea what’s gonna happen next.” And I was ok, like I said, it was… it is a good trick. But it was an experience that I had in Afghanistan that set into motion what became Leaders Eat Last. I did a lot of work with the mobility forces, which is a branch of the Air Force responsible for all of the big planes like the tankers and the cargo planes, even Air Force One. And the general who ran the mobility forces at the time said, you know, you’ve gotten to know us quite well. Would you be willing to go to Iraq or Afghanistan to see our men and women perform their duty in theatre? So I agreed and they decided to send me to Afghanistan. I didn’t tell my family because I didn’t want them to worry. I told them I was going to Germany, true. I told them I’d be out of touch, true. I told them I’d be on a lot of planes, true. I just didn’t tell them I was going on to Afghanistan. So I had 2 escorts, it was me and 2 officers who went with me, the three of us. And we left as basic strangers and we came back as brothers. It was a… everything on our trip basically went wrong. 10 minutes after we landed in Bagram in the middle of the night the base came under rocket attack. 3 rockets… I heard the first one come in. 3 rockets landed about 100 yards off our nose. So the sirens are blaring and the, you know, the calls for everyone to go to a safe place. I mean, that was how my trip began. Strangely I was relaxed. I mean, for anyone who has ever been in a war zone will know, you have all the feelings you would expect to have, you just don’t have them at the right times. Anyway, finally the all clear was given and, you know, we went to bed. The goal was to go on an air drop and we found out that there was an airdrop early, early the next morning. And so we got about 2 and a half hours, 3 hours of sleep, woke up, and went to do this airdrop mission, which was incredible. We basically got on a big C17 cargo plane, flew out about an hour and a half, 2 hours to the middle of the country, dropped down to 2 thousand feet, the back cargo bay door opened, and we sat there and watched as all this cargo slid out the back and was parachuted down to resupply an army forward operating base. Incredible experience. Then we came back. Now the goal is to get out of dodge. Now the goal is to find a flight home. There’s nothing that’s regularly scheduled and any plane you get on is at the discretion of the pilots anyway. So we found an outbound aeromedical mission, which is taking wounded warriors out of theatre. And we asked the pilots can we get on, and they said sure. And we waited and waited and waited and waited. And we’re all strapped in about 5 minutes before about to take off, they came up to us and they said, “We need to bump you off the plane because we need more room for stretchers.” And if there’s ever a good reason to get off a plane, that’s it. So that’s when we went to look for another flight and that’s when we found out there wasn’t one and there wasn’t going to be one until Tuesday. It was only Saturday. So at the very minimum I’m gonna be home 4 days late, my parents… I have no way of getting a hold of my family, they don’t know where I am, and there’s no guarantee we’re getting on that plane. And I just remember every fiber of my being sort of dropping down. I remember all the energy just leaving me and I remember becoming completely obsessed with one thing and only thing only, which was myself. I became obsessed with my safety, my happiness, my security, and I didn’t care who had to go out of their way to get me what I wanted. There was a public affairs officer there who said I can get you on a flight to Kyrgyzstan but you don’t have the right visa, to which I said, “You get me on that plane.” I don’t talk to people that way and I could feel myself becoming this person I hated, becoming this boss that at some point we’ve all worked for who only wants their own promotion and doesn’t care who has to twist themselves in knots so they can get what they want. I was now becoming that person. We went back to the… to our housing, to our quarters, and I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes but I couldn’t sleep, my mind was racing. I also became paranoid. I was convinced there was going to be another rocket attack and I was convinced, absolutely convinced, it was going to land on me. I was convinced this is how my parents would find out that I was in Afghanistan. One of the officers said he was going to look for another flight and he left. And the other one said, “Well, I’m going to the gym then,” and he left. And on his way out, because my eyes were closed, he thought I was sleeping and he turned out the light. I was in this room by myself in the dark, my mind racing, completely paranoid. And I realized that what I was experiencing was an unfulfilled career or an unfulfilled life compressed and exaggerated into a 24 hour period. Because I had an amazing day. I had an incredibly exciting experience. I didn’t want to wake up and do it again. I was full of regret, I didn’t… I regretting saying yes to this, I didn’t want to be there, I felt totally out of control. And I realized, you know, a lot of people confused excitement with joy or they confused happiness with fulfilment. You know, our careers and our jobs can be exciting and fun and winning the new client and making a big sale, but that doesn’t mean we’re fulfilled, that doesn’t mean we’re inspired, that doesn’t mean we have joy in our lives. And I realized this was the mistake I had made. And so I’m in the purpose business, you know. I realize that I felt this way because I didn’t have a sense of purpose. And so I try to invent one. You’re here to tell their story and come back and it worked for, like, a minute and then it would wear off. And I had… I ran out of solutions. I was paranoid, I was scared, I was depressed, I was out of control, and I had no solution. And so I lay in that bed and I gave up. I just… I gave up. I had… I had nothing else. And having given up I decided that if I was gonna get stuck here, I might as well make myself useful. And so I was going to volunteer to speak anywhere and as often as they wanted me to to help out some of the amazing people that I’d met. I don’t care if I had to carry heavy boxes or sweep floors. It didn’t matter how menial, I wanted to serve those who served others. And upon making that decision, this amazing calm came over me, an excitement even. I was excited to now be there and I couldn’t wait to get to work. As if it were a movie, it was eerie the timing, coming to this conclusion the door flies open, it’s Major Throckmorton, one of the guys I’m flying with. And he says, “There’s been a flight that’s been redirected. We can get on it if we leave now. We’ve gotta leave now. If we don’t leave now we’re gonna miss it, they’re gonna leave without us. We’ve gotta go now. Where’s Matt?” I’m like, “He’s at the gym.” So we run to the gym, we get Matt off the treadmill, he comes back, no time to shower, puts his uniform back on, we grab all our stuff, and we run out to the flight line. As soon as we get to the flight line we can see the plane we’re gonna get on, it’s a big C17 again, and as soon as we get there there’s a security curtain that comes down and won’t let us out to the plane. And the reason is is because somewhere else on base they’re having a fallen soldier ceremony and out of respect when that’s happening, everything stops on base. And so we just sat on the curb and waited and I told the guys what I went through just a few moments ago, and I cried like a baby as I told them the story. And one thing most people don’t realize about the military, which is crying is just fine. Finally the security curtain came up and we walked out to our aircraft, we got on board, we would be the only 3 passengers aboard this aircraft. What I haven’t told you is the reason this flight was redirected is that we would be carrying home the soldier for whom they just had the fallen soldier ceremony. So at the right time when the Army brought the casket, we all stood at attention at the end of the plane and the soldiers brought the flag draped casket, they placed it in the middle of the aircraft, they gave a slow 8 count salute, they walked off the aircraft, and we could see them crying and hugging each other as they walked away out of sight as the Air Force crew got to work and strapped down our precious cargo. It would be a 9 and a half hour flight overnight back to Germany. We all sort of sat there, the casket was over there as we just sat on the side of the plane to take off. As soon as we got into the air we all staked out a piece of real estate somewhere on the floor, pulled out our sleeping bags to try and get some sleep. On every other flight we talked, we joked. Barely a word was spoken in close to 10 hours. On every other flight I hung out in the flight deck on the cockpit and talked to the crew. I didn’t visit the cockpit once on this flight. And I’ll tell you, it was one of the most rewarding, profound experiences of my life. That having gone through what I went through on the ground just before over the course of those 24 hours, I had now had the opportunity to bring home someone who knows a lot more about service than I ever will. Our last flight home was in… we were bringing home wounded warriors from Germany back home to America, it was about 30 something wounded. And there was one Marine in what they call CCAT at the back of the plane. His wounds were very severe and he was kept in an artificial coma. I finally mustered the courage to go talk to the docs who were assigned to take care of him. He had 2 broken legs, 2 broken arms, shrapnel in the chest, a broken eye socket, a punctured eyeball. He was in bad shape. And they walked me through his wounds and all of the innovations that are taking place in trauma care that are making their way down into civilian hospitals, which is amazing unto itself because even when they’re injured they’re still giving back to us. You know? And the doc was a reservist out of Austin, Texas who works in an ER back home. And I asked him a question I don’t think I would ever have asked him had I not just gone through what I just went through. I said, “On these missions, do you have a greater sense of fulfilment than you do back home?” I said, “You’re a good guy, you’re… you save lives for a living.” And he looked at me and said, “There’s no comparison.” He said 90 to 95 percent of the people in the ER are either drunks or idiots. That’s what lands them in the ER. He says, “There’s not a single drunk or idiot here.” And so when I came home it shook me for a while and I really started to question the environments in which we work. You know, we work with people that we call colleagues or coworkers. They work with people that they call brother and sister. There’s a deep sense of trust and love that they have for each other that we just don’t have, and I want to work with people like that. And so my original conclusion was that they’re just better people, but I wanted to learn where trust and cooperation comes from mainly because I want to work with people in environments like that. And I learned it’s not the people, it’s the environment. And this is why leadership is so important, because leadership will create an environment that can create relationships like that, and that’s where Leaders Eat Last came from. That’s where that book came from.
Which leads us perfectly in what I wanted to unpeel and dive into deeper next, which is the power of environment. And you wrote in Leaders Eat Last, and I so believe this with my heart. How when we get the environment right, that humans will do remarkable things. And that really is true that it’s not just that they’re better. That we all have that capacity, and I was wondering if you could speak to that.
Yeah. It’s a very basic idea, you know. We’re social animals. Our happiness, our joy, our success, everything is dependent on our relationships. And we respond to the environments we’re in. You can take a good person and put them in a bad environment and they’re capable of doing bad things. Likewise, you can take a person that the group or even society has given up on and you put them in a good environment and they’re capable of turning their lives around and really making something remarkable out of themselves. We are social animals and we respond to the environments we’re in and leaders are responsible for building that environment. If you create an environment in which people feel safe amongst their own, we will naturally, the natural human response to those conditions is trust and cooperation. Remember, trust and cooperation are feelings, they’re not instructions. There’s no PowerPoint or pitch that you can give upon the end that someone will trust you. You can’t tell somebody, “Trust me.” It doesn’t work that way. They’re feelings. Likewise, if you create an environment where we actually fear each other, fear the people with whom we work, the natural human reaction to that environment is paranoia, cynicism, mistrust, and self-interest. That’s what happens. There’s enough danger outside the organization, there’s enough stuff going on outside that we shouldn’t have to fear the people we work with or fear our own leaders. And most leaders don’t get this. Most leaders think leadership is about being in charge. No, it’s not. It’s about taking care of those in your charge. Most leaders think everybody works for them. No, you work for the people in your organization. It’s your responsibility to take care of them, make them feel safe, and they will naturally want to cooperate and work hard and give you their blood and sweat and tears to advance your vision. All they ask is you take care of them, make them feel valued and valuable, and the rest takes care of itself. It’s like a parent, it’s like a coach. Teach them, train them, give them the opportunity to fall and try again. And if they fear the leader then they’re gonna take steps to protect themselves from the leader. It’s pervasive in our world today. If you work in an organization where it’s standard practice for employees to feel the need to send a CYA email after every single decision they make, that is a sign that they are taking time and energy out of their day, away from doing their job in order to protect themselves from their own leaders. That’s what that is. You know, anybody who keeps a file of all the good things they’ve done in their career just in case they need it, that is people taking time and energy away from doing their jobs in order to protect themselves from their own organization. So you can’t ask those people to give you the best of their thinking and be more productive if you’ve created an environment where they’re forced to protect themselves from you. You know? And this is what I learned. And so it’s all about this environment, this circle of safety.
Yeah, which I wanna dive deeper into and I felt like there was such a powerful question you write for all of us to ask ourselves, whether we consider ourselves in a leadership role or not. The question is, how safe do you feel where you work? And I thought that was just so incredible for all of us to reflect upon because for me as the owner of a company, it speaks largely to, like, how am I being? How are we interacting? How have we set things up and do I feel safe? Do my people feel safe? And I just think it’s such a brilliant question for us to ask and then answer. And I’d love you to perhaps unpack circle of safety because I think that’s genius.
Well, let’s be crystal clear in what I mean by safe. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get in trouble. Doesn’t mean that there isn’t discipline. It doesn’t mean that it’s a charity and everybody just floats along. That’s not what we’re talking about here. What we mean is that there’s enough pressure coming from the outside: the ups and downs of an economy, the uncertainty of the future, the whims of the stock market, your competition that is sometimes trying to put you out of business, sometimes trying to kill you, but at the very minimum they’re frustrating your growth. Like, there’s enough pressure over which we have no control. These things are a constant. The only variable inside an organization is the environment. That is entirely within our control, and that’s the leader’s responsibility. And if the leaders make the people feel like they’re given an education on how to do their job, the opportunity to try and try again and again and again, the opportunity to build their confidence and become their best selves, the opportunity to interact and build strong relationships. This is what I mean by feeling safe, that I love the people I work with, I love where I work, I enjoy going there. Work-life imbalance has nothing to do with how much yoga we do. Work-life imbalance means I feel safe at home but I don’t feel safe at work. That’s the imbalance. And no amount of yoga or free snacks in the cafeteria will solve that. You know, it’s leadership. It’s a leadership problem. And so when that… when that circle of safety is provided, two remarkable things happen. First, the people feel safe, so they will work extra hard to see that the leader’s vision is advanced. But they will also in turn take care of their leader. So if a leader doesn’t feel safe from their own people, it’s because the leader isn’t taking care of their people. Remember, we call someone leader not because they’re in charge but because they went first. First into the unknown, first towards the danger, first to protect the people. Because everybody just stands there and says, “What are we gonna do?” It’s the leader who says, “I got it. I got your backs.” That’s why we call you leader. I know many people who sit at the highest levels of organizations who aren’t leaders. They have authority. We do as they tell us because they have authority over us, but we wouldn’t follow them, we wouldn’t work to keep them safe and advance their vision. And I know many people who sit at the lowest levels of organizations that have no authority but absolutely are leaders because they’ve made the choice to look after the person to the left of them and to take care of the person to the right of them. That is what it means to be a leader. Having a position of authority simply means that you get to operate at greater scale and influence more people, but a leader can never feel safe until the people feel safe first. That’s the responsibility of the leader, to start, to go first.
So a concept that you share in the book is this idea of trust coming from above. And Bob Chapman, incredible human being…
Spectacular human being.
…and I think I read in the acknowledgements someone you consider a mentor of yours.
I do, I have… he has become a friend. Yes.
I was wondering if you could share a bit of his story for those who might not know of him.
Bob Chapman is the CEO of a company called Barry-Wehmiller. It’s a… it’s about a 2 billion dollar company with about 7 thousand employees. So it’s not like, you know, “Oh, it’s four people and we all love each other like family.” No, this is… this has some scale and it’s spread out across the nation. And Bob made a realization a bunch of years ago that every single person in his company is someone’s son and someone’s daughter, and they have given their son and daughter to him with the hope that their son and daughter will thrive and do well in the world. And he as a responsibility to take care of their sons and their daughters. And he realizes this and it completely and profoundly changed the way in which he ran his company. Because he used to run his company like anybody used to run their company, by the numbers. He saw people as a disposable resource and this profoundly changed his point of view. And I think it really, really came to bear in 2008. We now live in a world in which the concept of layoffs has become so normal we don’t even perceive it as a bad thing. You know, that’s like being a functional alcoholic. Sure, you can get through the day. Doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Mass layoffs, in other words, using people to balance the books, did not exist as a standard business practice in the United States prior to the 1980s. Did not exist. Right? Only as a last, last, last resort to save a dying company maybe. Right? But the way we use it now, like, we’re gonna send you home to tell your family that you can no longer provide for them because we missed our projections. You know, I mean, that’s nuts. So Bob, his company in 2008, and it’s a large manufacturing company, good old fashioned blue collar. Right? And they lost 30% of their orders due to the 2008 stock market crash. And so not only did the business dry up, the pipeline dried up. And so the board got together, they needed to save 10 million dollars, they could no longer afford their labor pool. And so as is normal in this day and age, the board says, “We need to have layoffs.” And Bob refused because Bob does not believe in head counts, Bob believes in heart counts and it’s very hard to simply reduce a heart count. And so instead what they implemented was a furlough program where every single employee, regardless of their position in the company, had to take 4 weeks of unpaid vacation. They could take it whenever they wanted and they did not have to take it consecutively. And it was how Bob announced the program that was equally as powerful. He said, “It’s better we should all suffer a little than any of us should have to suffer a lot.” And morale went up. And, as you would expect, when a circle of safety like that is provided, the natural human reaction is not selfishness. The natural human reaction is to take care of each other. So behaviors started to show up that weren’t part of the program that nobody predicted. People who could afford it more started trading with people who could afford it less. So someone would take 5 weeks so that someone else only had to take 3. And when the economy improved and business improved, everybody had remained. They repaid all the 401k that they had frozen, back paid it. You cannot steal their employees. They are happy and fulfilled. I’ve met some of them. I’ve met people who come to tears talking about their jobs. It’s amazing. It’s amazing what he’s built and he wrote about his experience in his book, Everybody Matters, which really takes you through some of the stuff he did. It’s… it’s really remarkable.
You have another line in the book that really spoke to my heart. “When we feel… we feel good when we look after other people. That’s not an accident.” And what I love about your work and particularly about Leaders Eat Last is my take is it feels like we are all designed to be leaders. You’re not giving us a prescription it’s like, “Oh, I want you to go out and do this, this, and this, and then you’re gonna be a leader.” And I was wondering if you could unpack a little bit more about the fact that we do feel really good when we look after people and if we follow those instincts to take care of one another, natural outcome is leadership.
Yeah. We are designed to take care of each other. As social animals it is in our biology that we will take care of each other. This is why it feels so good when somebody does something really nice for us with no expectation of anything in return. We’ve all had the experience where somebody does something nice and you’re like, “Oh my God, thank you,” and then they put out, you’re like, “Ugh.” It kinda, like, ruins the whole experience. Right?
It ruins it. But when they just do it and they’re like, “No, no, no,” and you’re like, “Please.” “No, no, no. It’s my pleasure.” You know? Not only does our esteem for them go up, but it just… it feels good. Likewise, it feels good when we do something for someone else with no expectation of anything in return. When we give our time and our energy. Money actually doesn’t work, believe it or not. Like, if I told you I gave 500 dollars to charity this morning you’d be like, “Ok?”
That’s great, Simon.
But if I told you that last weekend I gave up my Saturday and went and painted schools in the inner city you’d be like, “Nice. That’s really awesome.” Now, the value of my labor was worth a lot less than 500 dollars, and that’s the point. Right? That’s the point, which is we are designed to take care of each other. And there’s a chemical called Oxytocin, which is the chemical responsible for our feelings of love and friendship and trust. When you look at somebody you adore and you go like this, that’s oxytocin. When somebody touches you and says, “Oh my God, it’s so good to see you.” Touch creates oxytocin. So good to see you.
You know? It actually makes us feel closer to each other. You know? When oxytocin is released in our bodies, not only does it make us feel good, not only does it boost our immune systems, but the more oxytocin that we have in our bodies it actually makes us more generous because the human body is trying to get us to look after each other. And it gets even better than that. The person who does the act of generosity, giving of time or energy without expectation of anything in return, they get a shot of oxytocin. The person on the receiving end gets a shot of oxytocin. And even witnessing an act of generosity or kindness releases oxytocin. It feels good to see somebody do something nice. And the more oxytocin we have in our bodies, as I said, means we’re more likely to do something nice for somebody. This is the biology of pay it forward. It’s the human body’s desperate attempt to get us to look after each other. And so when we create environments where we allow that to flow, it does naturally. It just takes care of itself. It’s just biology. When we create environments where we restrict that it actually does the opposite. It releases a chemical called cortisol, which is the feeling of stress and anxiety. Cortisol actually inhibits oxytocin, which means if we work in a poorly led organization, not only do we have high stress, but we actually… it actually inhibits empathy. In other words, I’m less likely to even want to care about somebody because of the poor leadership and the poor environment that’s been provided for me to work in. Right? And the more cortisol we all have in our bodies, stress goes up and anxiety goes up, it affects our immune systems. Happy people live longer. Happy people have lower rates of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, which means when you’re in a position of leadership you’re actually medically responsible for the lives of these people. Get the environment right, they will live longer, they will suffer lower cases of disease, and they will probably have happier families because of it. Whereas if you’re a bad leader, over the course of time you’re actually killing the people working with you. Our jobs are actually killing us. So leadership is this awesome responsibility. It’s not about the company, that’s not what leadership is. You can’t lead a company, you cannot. It’s a human enterprise. You can run a company, you can manage a project, but you can only lead people. And for anybody in a leadership position who says, “I am a leader,” you’re a leader of people. That’s how it works. And the problem is is we have to go through this transition. Some people make it quickly, some people make it slowly, and some people will never make it. When we’re junior, the only thing we have to do is be good at our jobs. That’s it. The company trains us how to do our job, some of us get advanced degrees in how to do our job, accounting, engineering, whatever. And if you’re really good at doing your job eventually they’ll promote you and eventually you’ll get promoted into a position where you are now responsible for the people who do the job you used to do. But nobody teaches us how to do that. So they put us in a position of leadership and demand results, which is like putting us in front of the machine and demanding results, although they never showed us how to use the machine. And so we fumble our way through and we break things and we don’t want anybody to know that we have no clue what we’re doing. And of course we manage people, because I do know how to do your job better than you. That’s what got me promoted. We have to go through this transition where when you’re now in a leadership position, you are now no longer responsible for the results. You’re now responsible for the people who are responsible for the results. I love talking to CEOs. I say, “What’s your priority?” They say, “My customer.” You haven’t talked to a customer in 10 years. There’s not a CEO on the planet anywhere who’s responsible for the customer. You’re responsible for the people who are responsible for the customer. As a solopreneur, that’s a… I mean, you’re chief cook and bottle washer. It’s a hard… it’s a hard job. And when you have a very small enterprise, you have to balance this thing because you have a responsibility as a worker but you also have a responsibility as a leader, and they have to be separate. So when you do work you’re a worker, you do the best job you can do. If you’re out there consulting or pitching or whatever you’re doing. But when you’re the leader, you’re taking care of your people so they can be at their natural best, so that they can thrive. And you know that their work is not your responsibility, they are your responsibility. Their work is their responsibility. And so it’s… it’s a really hard sort of yin and yang when you’re small, but as you gain size and as you gain, start hiring a few more people, the problem is we kind of extricate ourselves, we struggle. Like I said, that transition is really hard. It takes practice, it’s hard work, it requires studying. Just like you study how to learn the machine, you have to study how to learn to be a leader. All the great leaders I know are students of leadership. None of them consider themselves experts. We’re all students of the subject and when we get together we talk about it because we’re genuinely interested in it. You know, golfers talk about golf, leaders talk about leadership if they’re good. Because they’re constantly in learning mode. So, yeah, it’s a human enterprise and it has to be treated that way.
So this was just genius. I’m wondering if there’s anything that you want to leave us with today because what I took away from your book, and I love this idea of studying leadership and talking about it, but the simplistic idea that if we look out for the people around us, I feel like that is something anyone can do whether they’re running a company or they’re looking across at their family or their friends. Is there any closing thought that you wanna leave us with, Simon?
It’s… it takes practice. And it’s a daily practice. You’re not going to be an expert tomorrow. Leadership is the practice of putting the lives of others sometimes ahead of our interests. So practicing leadership is like driving to work in the morning and someone wants to cut in your lane. Do you pull forward or do you pull back? That’s leadership. Like, we don’t know, maybe they’re running late for a big interview and they’ve been unemployed for 6 months. Maybe their boss is an ogre and they left late because their kids, you know, had trouble getting out to school today. I don’t know why they’re late, you know, I don’t know why they’re cutting in. Or maybe they’re just a bastard, I don’t know. But we can sacrifice being at work one car length late, you know. That’s leadership. You’re standing in the elevator, you’re running late for a meeting, the doors start to close. You see someone rushing towards the elevator, what do you do? Sorry. Like, we’ve all done that. You know? No, lean forward and push hold. That’s leadership. You pour yourself a cup of coffee, it’s the last cup, you put it back. It’s empty, the next person who wants a cup, they’ll make the next pot. Or when no one’s looking you make the next pot of coffee. This is leadership. And if you practice the little stuff, when somebody… when you ask someone how are you doing, you actually care about the answer. Right? If you don’t care, don’t ask. So these are little things that if you practice and practice and practice, like exercise, the pain starts to go away, you start to get a little stronger, is starts to get a little easier, you start to take those kinds of risks with bigger and bigger things, and people start to recognize that you’ve changed or that the environment is changing, that it’s different working here. It’s a daily practice. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it’s an awesome responsibility. Just do little, little things to make the lives of the people around you better. And if you practice a lot, you get good at it.
Thanks again so much, Simon.
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
So now Simon and I would love to hear from you. What’s the single biggest insight that you’re taking away from today’s show? Now, as always, the best conversations happen after the episode over at MarieForleo.com, so go there and leave a comment now. Did you like this video? I loved it. If you did, consider subscribing to our channel and I would be so grateful if you shared this with your friends. And if you want even more great resources to create a business and life that you love, plus some personal insights from me that I only talk about in email, come on over to MarieForleo.com and make sure you sign up for email updates. Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams because the world needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and I’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.