“Good leaders know they have a responsibility”

Simon Sinek is a leadership expert, motivational speaker, and author of the books Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last. He may be most famous for his TED talk, How great leaders inspire action, which is among the mostwatched talks ever on ted.com.

What makes for good leadership?

“Good leaders understand that they have a responsibility for the people inside their organisations. Leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of those in your charge. You can’t lead a company; you can only
lead people.”

How does one become a good leader?

“Practice, practice, practice. And you have to fail a lot and you have to try again and again and again. It’s a skill like any other that requires studying and learning and practising. And in time, you gain expertise. It’s the practice of empathy. It’s considering the impact of your decisions on the lives of human beings, not just bottom lines.”

You talk a lot about the circle of safety. What is that?

“There are all kinds of pressures, threats and dangers outside your organisation. Competitive threats, the stock market, economies, all kinds of things. Those things are out of our control and they are constant. The only variables are the conditions inside an organisation and if we feel safe amongst our own. It means we don’t fear each other. Then the natural human reactions to those conditions are trust and cooperation. That’s what I mean by the circle of safety. This can only be achieved with good leadership.”

What happens if you don’t create the circle of safety? 

“The absence of a circle of safety means there is danger outside the organisation and there is danger inside the organisation. And this makes an organisation struggle. 99 percent of the problems that companies face can probably be boiled down to leadership.” You say that leadership is a choice.

What do you mean by that? 

“We can choose to lead an organisation well, or we can choose to lead it poorly. We can choose to prioritize the lives of human beings over our personal interests. How we take care of others is entirely our choosing.”

Do you think that you are an inspiring leader yourself? 

“I work hard to be the leader that I wish I had. And I try to do the things I talk about.”

Three inspiring leaders, according to Simon Sinek: 

  1. The Pope. “Because he stands for something inclusive and is enjoying a popularity even outside the catholic church.”
  2. Lady Gaga. “She offers people who are often treated as misfits a place to belong. And her message is always positive, and always consistent.”
  3. Elon Musk. “He has a vision of the world that is different. And he’s repeated his success multiple times, which is one of the signs of a good leader.”


Text: Hanna Klumbies Photo: Hannes Ojensa

Simon Sinek spoke at Hjärntillskott at the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre in November 2015.