Simon Sinek on What It Means to Be a Leader

In Chapter 9 of 16 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers "What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in What You Do?"  Sinek notes being a leader means one thing and one thing only: you have followers.  He then shares how leaders create that following by articulating a vision, cause or purpose toward a future that does not yet exist.  He then puts this in perspective of his own leadership, helping his followers work toward waking up inspired to do what they love to do and achieve fulfillment by doing so.  Simon Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people.  His goal is to "inspire people to do the things that inspire them" and help others find fulfillment in their work.  Sinek is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action".  He works regularly with the United States Military, United States Congress, and many organizations, agencies and entrepreneurs.  Sinek is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and an adjunct staff member at the think tank RAND Corporation.  Sinek earned a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen:  What does it mean to be a leader in what you do?

Simon Sinek:  To be a leader means one thing and one thing only. It means you have followers. That’s it. You know? It’s not about learning your style of leadership and how to adjust your style to fit the situation at hand, that’s management, right? Leaders only have one thing, they have followers.  A follower is somebody who raises their hand and volunteers to go where you’re going. They raise their hand and volunteer to go in the direction that you’re pointing. And so to lead others, means that you have a clear vision of a world that does not yet exist, a world that could exist, and by articulating that cause, that vision, that purpose, over and over and over again, it inspires people who believe what you believe, who want to see that world built, to join, to go with you, to figure out ways, you know? And so for me in my work, what leadership means, is articulating this world in which the vast majority of us wake up every single day, inspired to go to work, and come home every single day fulfilled by the work that we do. That doesn’t mean we have to like every day, you know, but we can love every day. You don’t like your children every day but you love your children every day, right? And so the more I talk about this world that does not yet exist, because right now the world we live in, the vast majority of people, 90%-plus don’t love what they do, they may like it but they don’t love it. When I talk about this world, it inspires others who believe what I believe and want to see this world built, join up and figure out in their own way how to advance that vision, so it becomes real. My role is to continue to pound the pavement and put that vision out there.