Tim Leon
President/Brand Strategist

Understand People & You’ll Understand Business

Simon SinekA little over a week ago, a couple G/Lers and I attended an event at COCA (Center of Creative Arts) with world-renowned marketing and leadership thought leader, Simon Sinek. To my surprise, the discussion focused on a compelling topic separate from his book Start with Why. Sinek raised the question: What makes great leaders and great management teams?

While Simon Sinek may be best known for his 2009 book, (a must-read for people in our field or any leadership position) the guy knows how to get a room full of people hooked. He started exploring this big question about great leaders by pointing out the four types of chemicals the human body produces as a result of various experiences. The interesting thing to note however, was that by actually understanding how these chemicals work, individuals can become better leaders, and teams can become even stronger.

In essence, just as companies reward certain behaviors and discipline others, the body produces these chemicals that mirror identical responses — endorphins reward us for exercising, dopamine rewards us for accomplishing goals, etc. While this is not new or groundbreaking information, it’s important to know that both are fleeting, can become addictive and are based on individual behaviors. Okay, great …. so what’s the big deal? Well, the other two chemicals that our bodies produce can have a profound impact on our lives and the lives of people we come in contact with.

Serotonin is created as a result of a feeling of belonging, trust and pride — which inspires good leaders. Oxytocin is a result of love, relationships and doing for others without expecting a return. Both chemicals are long lasting and can impact how you perform as a leader. That being said, great leaders inspire others to generate serotonin and oxytocin by creating an environment of trust and belonging. When people understand the importance of doing for others without expecting immediate gratification, trusted relationships are created and others are inspired to do the same.

According to Sinek, the cost of leadership is sacrificing self-interest. What’s more, the bottom line is if you don’t understand people, you can’t understand business. Create an environment in which people feel good about themselves, trust their leaders and their colleagues. Reward people not just for individual goals but also for sacrificing for the good of others, and it will result in exceptional teams and exceptional companies.

At the end of the conference, Sinek took questions and one in particular stood out. Someone in the audience asked him, “What is your ‘Why’?”

His response, “To inspire people to do what inspires them.” Mission accomplished I thought to myself as we got up from our seats and applauded.