Empathy is One of the Main Skills of a Leader
In Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last published by Portfolio Penguin (2014), introduces the subject that the buck stops at the leader’s desk. The book has multiple concepts on what type of leaders and leadership style make or break the organization and people within the organization. Is it a me or we organization? From the human biology of brain chemicals to leadership theories it is a book of great mental reflection. It has reiterated many teachings from the Maxwell 360 Degree Leader book and other leadership videos such as Tony Robins and other in the related fields as well as the Northwood Idea.
The book teaches how to influence those in your group, how to lead forward but also gives inspiration background stories to help motivate and make the mental transition of emphatic and long-term leadership an enjoyable and informational gain and future goals to work towards while reading. Simon Sinek born in 1973 is a leadership guru and professor at Columbia University who also with his organization SinekPartners, teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people through books, videos, and workshops. Simon has released multiple books such as “Start with Why” (2009) to “Find Your Why” (2017), spanning a total of 6 books and multiple videos from Tedtalk to other talk show interviews. All his work has proven he is an expert in his field and have helped change multiple businesses for the better.
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The book has vast amount of important information but the most important to me is the circle of safety and empathy. The book “Leaders Eat Last”, also has alignments with the Northwood Idea and the 360 Degree Leader book we read this semester. There is also information on how your body chemicals effect your leadership abilities and you as a person/leader and becoming a long-term leader. The Northwood Idea aligns with the book by helping a person develop as a leader in multiple ways. The actions and knowledge of respect, empathy, honesty, achievement, integrity, and responsibility are all qualities that leaders must have and use to be a true and great leader. Great leaders must be able to communicate effectively in speech and writing, demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving proficiency, demonstrate foundational knowledge of the functional areas of business and. demonstrate acumen applied to the global business environment.
These attributes were talked about in the book “The 360 Degree Leader and the Book Leaders Eat Last. When it comes to knowledge, respect, empathy, honesty, achievement, integrity and responsibility it is all about being able to balance all the listed items and being able to build your team up. In the 360 Degree Leader it speaks of ideas on how to lead a team and be an asset to the organization and those around you. In order to be a great leader, you must be able to use empathy to show your coworkers that they matter, and you genuinely care, creating a circle of trust and building all members of the team up and not break the circle of trust. It is not about manipulating those around you to achieve your goals but to influence those to achieve the goals set with you and to pass the vision you have as a leader to the managers and workers around you.
In the book “Leaders Eat last” the same theories were explained in other ways, giving stories of other companies and the Marine Corp. as examples to prove the theories correct. The Spartans had a rule and belief that basically said punish not the man who loses his sword, breast plate or spear in battle but the man who loses his shield. This was for the sole purpose that to lose his shield would endanger the men around him if a defense position was needed to take place. The solder was not to be selfish and think of himself only but to put his men before himself.
“The Whole Purpose of Maintaining the Circle of Safety Is So That We Can Invest All Our Time and Energy to Guard Against the Dangers Outside. It’s the Same Reason We Lock Our Doors at Night.’ (Sinek, S. (2018). Leaders eat last). The circle of safety to the Spartans was the key to their military strength and gave them the right to stand against and conquer their enemies and defend against invaders. Strength in unity was the key concept and this takes place in today’s business culture. If a work culture has no trust it cannot do well as a company and every man for themselves the company will always work against itself and it will show in its leadership and negative productivity.
Being a long-term leader is one of the great teachings of the book. ‘Good Leadership Is Like Exercise. We Do Not See Any Improvement to Our Bodies with Day-To-Day Comparisons. In Fact, If We Only Compare the Way Our Bodies Look on A Given Day to How They Looked the Previous Day, We Would Think Our Efforts Had Been Wasted. It’s Only When We Compare Pictures of Ourselves Over A Period of Weeks or Months That We Can See A Stark Difference. The Impact of Leadership Is Best Judged Over Time.’ (Sinek, S. (2018). Leaders eat last)
Simon compares two companies in his book, while doing this he argues that leading for the long-term is better then leading for the short-term. He compares the short-term leader, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric to the long-term leader, Jeff Sinegal, former CEO of Costco Sinek compares GE vs Costco by measuring profits by the rise and fall of their stocks and connecting them to the decisions the leaders of the companies made. The information Simon Sinek reveals is that Jack Welch of GE (the short-term leader), Profits at GE were like a roller coaster ride due to irrational decision making without regard for long-term consequence. Every year Jack Welch would fire the bottom 10% of his managers at GE to balance the books. This led the company to constantly work against itself, creating a me now we attitude at the company and made it a hostile and stressful work environment.GE made profit, but it was more like rolling the dice and gambling with lives of employees for selfish gain — this is not strategy, this is a man on high on dopamine. Sinek, S. (2018). Leaders eat last. A company like GE although highly profitable at is not a company I would like to work for and would make me take my business else ware if possible. Leadership like Jack Welch is not what true leaders do or how they lead. Jack Welch seems to be only concerned with financial gains not the true heart of the company which is the staff who runs the company.
Jeff Sinegal the CEO of Costco and is the Long-term leader, was the man to follow and in my opinion created a higher scene of loyalty, trust and empathy between himself and his employees. His leadership skills are the difference between a manager and leaders. The leader having the vision and knowing what his employees need and the manager concerned about the end goal and keeping cost down. While Welch was striking fear into the hearts of his managers, Jeff Sinegal was concerned about giving his employees a raise — at a time when the US was in an economic crisis… Sinegal would say that they should be helping the employees in bad times, not letting them go. (Sinek, S. (2018). Leaders eat last) hearing this from an employee’s point of view and having a parent who basically survived the last recession with her job at General Motors, this makes me see Costco as a business to be loyal too as a consumer and a potential employee. The only company that I know of that did well during the last recession is Menards, they did not let anyone go, they hired people and opened new stores throughout the United States companies like these are the companies you like to hear about and like to support. Companies that will find ways to sacrifice so that their employees are not kicked to the curb are companies that show true leadership in my opinion. Costco’s stock was (and still is) stable and predictable — nothing exciting about it, just great, clean, predictable progress, performance and profit… when you’re the 2nd largest retailer in the country, predictability is better than spontaneity. (Sinek, S. (2018). Leaders eat last). From an inventory point of view, this is also true if I had an opportunity to invest in either GE or Costco and know what I know now about the two, I would choose Costco without hesitation, due to the fact I agree with its leadership and respect the company for its choice in leadership. In life and stock trading a sure thing is a safe thing and is worth the investment in my opinion. Especially in a time o recession.
My reactions to the book
My thoughts on how the author presented the information on the circle of safety and empathy, as well as how endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin effect the body in positive ways and negative ways as a leader, is that is was a genius way to connect with the readers and make it relevant to us as the background stories did connect with us. The stories about the Marines got me to talk to a coworker about his experience as a marine and I got to know him better in the fifteen minutes talking to him about the book, then I had in the six months working with him for six days a week, sixty hours a week.
The book helped create a circle of trust and brought our work group closer together helping boost our productivity and friendship by helping each other create a bond. I agree with the authors viewpoint on empathy and the circle of trust, I believe those were the key concepts that truly stuck with me. This is because I have worked for jobs I lived, we had open communication, an open-door policy and a love for the job and our coworkers. It was more of a family feeling, then a job and I have also worked for jobs I hated, where I showed up always walking on eggshells and had to mentally prepare myself every morning, two to three times before going in to work.
There were no viewpoints a disagreed with. My thoughts on leadership have changed a little after reading this book but it just installed a greater need for empathy and circle of safety at work and with one’s family. That is what gives the Marines such strength and confidence, they don’t have to worry about internal dangers and know the man next to them will protect them with their life and that give the ability to be absent of fear and get their mission done.
The book is a great leadership guide and is an asset to any leader of future leader who wants to sharpen their leadership skills and I would recommend this to anyone who has any interest at all in leadership and business, it helps you understand who the circle of safety and empathy is important, as well as how certain chemicals in your body affect you as a leader in both positive and negative ways. From stories from Marines, CEO’s of businesses, as well as employees and articles and reports. It truly shows how a company’s dollar stops at the leader’s desk. If a leader is a true leader, they will influence their staff in positive ways and build them up by leading forward and is they are not good leaders, they will manipulate those around them and negatively impart the business eventually destroying it or making it a me company, not a we company.