Great leaders eat humble pie

Leaders could do worse than listen to Simon Sinek. In his presentation based on his book 'Why leaders eat last' he expresses the problem of working in a culture where the leaders focus more on gaining recognition for themselves and as a by product create a culture of fear.

He explains, "If our leaders don't allow us space to feel safe in our own companies we are forced to exert energy to protect ourselves from each other and by the way expose ourselves to danger from the outside.

If you have to worry about politics, if you have to worry about someone stealing your credit, if you have to worry about your boss not having your back, think about the energy you invest, not in your business, not in the products you are trying to develop, not in your work, not in your creativity, but in just keeping yourself feeling safe - this is destructive.

The responsibility of leadership is two things 1) to determine who gets in (effective recruitment) and who doesn't and to 'start with why' by aligning values and beliefs 2) to decide just how big our circle of safety is. Do we keep it for just our C level executives and keep it to our inner circle or to the outer circle? Great leaders do this."

Sinek makes the point that great leaders ensure that their people 'eat first'. That they are valued and motivated by the culture and vision of the company. Performance is proven to be optimised if this is the case.

Leaders must create an entire culture. Not an inconsistent one where lip service is paid to idea generation. An odd meeting here and there where leaders expect people to weirdly behave 'like a fish out of water' as if they are not part of the company in which they work. Just observe David Brent in 'the Office' and you will know what I mean.

If you have a mostly conservative and risk averse culture - ideas won't suddenly spring out of a well of creativity just because you have decided to press the 'oh go on then' button because that is what you want right now.

It must be genuine. Holistic. Innovation comes to life if people feel they are not being overly judged, if they are not at risk of terminal failure, and if it is part of an entire approach to innovation. This has to be consistent and committed.

There are plenty of famous examples of companies that deploy this approach. And they are perhaps too numerous and perhaps well known (so a little boring) to mention. Google blah, blah and so on. The best companies just do it, and don't expect awards for behaving normally as far as they are concerned.

By the way you don't need to buy a table football game, bean bags, punch bags or develop a neatly refined beard. You just need to be.

The point for an entrepreneurial leader to accept  is that you don't always have to be the one that generates the idea. But you will have to be the one that gives credit to the person who generated it. This doesn't mean you lose the idea. But it will mean that your particular approach to idea generation and motivating your people will have worked.

So why should leaders eat humble pie?

Apart from great ideas you will get greater commitment, motivation and talent retention.

And you'll be performing at a higher level.

Proving that it might be worth eating humble pie every now and then.