What are the top qualities of great leaders? It's not a great mystery, said Simon Sinek at the World Business Forum on Wednesday. As the motivational speaker and author explained, it really boils down to three things: selflessness, empathy, and an ability to manage anxiety on your team. Here is a look at each trait, and why it is so valuable for you to cultivate.
People like to be around people they trust--it's as simple as that. "Humans are constantly assessing people and organizations around them, and if they feel they're selfish, they'll keep a safe distance," said Sinek. On the other hand, people tend to want to associate with people and brands charcterized by an element of selflessness. Creating that human connection--building trust--is key, though it does take time. Just remember: You're responsible for setting that tone, Sinek warned. "When the environment is one of a leader who [will] sacrifice, the way people respond is by sacrificing in return. Being a leader is a lifestyle decision; it means you're willing to take care of others."
Speaking of taking care of others, Sinek added, "the more we do good for each other, the more we want to do good for each other." He recounted the time he picked up loose papers for a man when he saw them slip out of his bag. The man was grateful, but Sinek said his actions went further than that. They motivated someone who saw them to do something kind. Kindness begets kindness, Sinek went on. It's holding the door for someone, making a new pot of coffee, and letting someone into your lane. Putting others ahead of yourself--"that is the practice of leadership," he said.
3. Grace under fire
Stress and anxiety are enough to make people dishonest and to sabotage their performance at work. When your body is flooded with cortisol, or the chemical that produces anxiety, "you biologically restrict empathy and trust," Sinek said. Don't be that kind of boss--if you're the one inducing fear and anxiety in your employees, you're never going to have their trust. The solution is clear: Work on managing your own stress and "be the leader you wish you had," he said. Your team will appreciate it.