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TED Talk Tuesday: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek believes leaders should be more than just authority figures—to earn the trust, respect and cooperation of their teams, leaders should first make selfless sacrifices and put the needs of the people around them ahead of their own.

In the military, Sinek points out, troops are expected to follow their leaders into a line of fire, and trust their decision-making with their lives. At work, meanwhile, employees trust their leaders with their livelihoods, and count on them to make the best choices not only for the organization, but also for themselves and their peers.

In his TED Talk, Sinek explains why making employees feel secure in their jobs is a key attribute of a good leader.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from his talk.

"When people feel safe and protected by the leadership in [an] organization, the natural reaction is to trust and cooperate."

Employees living in constant fear of losing their jobs are not performing at their best—plain and simple, Sinek says. During an unpleasant encounter at an airport, when an airline agent snapped at a customer who tried to board the plane out of turn, Sinek confronted the agent, only to realize that her behavior was a direct result of her fear of being let go, should she break the rules.

This level of pressure creates a stress-filled, ineffective work environment. To ensure that employees focus on doing their jobs well instead of on just keeping them, make them feel secure in their roles. Empower them, Sinek recommends, by trusting them to make on-the-job choices.

"Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people."

Leaders that prioritize the wellbeing of their employees end up with a more loyal workforce, and one that's more invested in company success. When they're valued and respected, workers are more likely to give it their all on the job, Sinek says, which benefits the organization at large.

If you inspire and support them, your employees will too do whatever it takes to see your company's vision become reality, simply because they know their leader would do the same for them.

"Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank."

Good leaders worry about others before they worry about themselves, Sinek says. When Barry-Wehmiller, a large manufacturing company in the Midwest, was hit hard by the recession back in 2008, the company had to save 10 million dollars to make up for losses. Instead of considering layoffs, CEO Bob Chapman came up with a plan to require every employee—including leaders—to take furlough time to save money and people's jobs.

Employees understand that the health of a company is unpredictable, but they should always be able to trust their leaders to make the best decisions for everyone when times get tough. Be transparent about difficult calls, and put people before profit. According to Sinek, that's what sets good leaders apart.

Photo: TED

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