Which topic to choose for the start of this blog? I struggled with this question for many days, until I came across the book I read at the moment, the book that inspired me to stand in front of the mirror, think carefully what kind of leader I am and how the people I lead see me.
The author of this book, Simon Sinek, claims for himself to be an eternal optimist, who trusts in the bright future of mankind. Simon, the consultant of many famous leaders of today, gave a speech on a prestigious TED.com channel which is the third most listened speech of all times.
Besides the title, I will not tell you much about the book, but about the phenomenon I have seen so many times in my practice, even being a part of it for a moment, the phenomenon for which I found an explanation in this book. What is it all about? It is about something I call „The top-performer phenomenon“.
If you are a top-performer continually, recognized by your managers and colleagues, praised and rewarded for your performance many times, and besides all that you have at least a minimal ambitions, sooner or later you will ask yourself: „Why am I not a leader“. It will seem almost unbelievable that nobody has approached you and offered you some leading position. Is it not logical that someone who is the best in his job should be a leader to the ones less good at their work? Who will be a role model how the job should be done if not the best? It may seem to you almost as an insult when your manager asks you to apply for the leading position that has just been opened. Eventually, with heavy heart, you will go to the interview with the presentation full of your professional achievements, results, rewards and comparisons with others who are not so good as you are. You will unconsciously criticize your manager for making you talk about this and expect from others to give you something that belongs to you long time ago.
In the end, when they tell you they decided to promote someone else, you will be greatly disappointing. Will you go through your presentation again, slide by slide, will you think about all the questions you were asked during the interview and ask your manager to give you a feedback while everything is still „vivid“ in your mind?
Unfortunately, only a few people will do such a thing. The great majority of them will instead, ask their manager who of the candidates has been promoted. Is it possible that they selected him, who has significantly lower results and much less work experience then I do? Who supports him? Who from the management stands behind him? As always, you will find a thousand reasons and people to blame, but yourself.
From my experience, more than 90% of candidates, have not asked for the manager’s feedback for more than two or three weeks after not being selected on the interview. This shows how little ready people are to listen to the feedback, how little feedback is relevant to them, how little ready they are to act based on it, and prepare themselves for the next interview. So, the logical question emerge: Where is the problem?
The essence of the problem lies in responsibility, namely in the question: What is the responsibility of a leader, or the one who wants to become one with all his heart? Simon Sinek gives us the answer by stating:
„Not a single leader in this world is responsible for the results, but for the people responsible for those results“
Having this in mind I ask our top performers would their interview presentations look the same as I described above?
What such responsibility really means? It means readiness to put at any time – the success of your team and organization – in front of your personal interests, which can often mean sacrifice for the people you lead.
Many top performers are individuals, goal-oriented, willing to prove themselves and advance in career without any empathy for colleagues and customers. Unfortunately, many of them are not aware that the hierarchy level does not make person a leader. They do not realize that leadership is actually a service to other people with or without formal position. There are people in top management who are not leaders, as well as people on the entry or basic positions who are. We call such people „leaders without a title“ and it is only a matter of time when their capabilities will formally be recognized in the company’s hierarchy, because they have long gone been recognized as leaders by their surrounding.
Let us for a second get back to the responsibilities of a leader. It is not leader’s mere responsibility to put the benefit of a team in front of his own, but to make such a surrounding where his people will give their maximum, with mutual trust and recognition. Simon Sinek says:
„When you are surrounded with people who share the same beliefs and values – something incredible happens – the trust among people grows making them much more ready to undertake risks, that sometimes includes failure, but overall – to experiment – which eventually brings new ideas and innovations.“
Creation of such a surrounding is a direct responsibility of a leader. Do not forget that we call stress to work hard for something you care about but we call passion – to work hard for something you like.
In the end, based on all being said, can we draw the conclusion that there is no hope for our top performers? On the contrary, top performers with empathy, people-oriented, willing to learn and improve themselves, are – almost by rule – the best leaders with highest integrity and credibility with people they lead. The others, who do not wish to change and do not realize that the problem is in their selves will soon be disappointed after a few unsuccessful attempts to gain a leading position which will inevitably affect their performance.
No matter where you find yourself in this story, whether you are a leader or wish to become one, I warmly recommend you a book called: „Leaders eat last“ by Simon Sinek. The first to sign in on this blog will be given this book as a present.
Before I finish this story – I would like to address the existing leaders in my team: No body wakes up in the morning and goes to work thinking that someone else will govern him. People wake up and go to work every morning hoping that someone will lead them“.