6 Ways to Unlock Your Inner Leadership Skills

06/01/2015 06:13 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2016

Simon Sinek started out like most entrepreneurs with a dream. He created a business because he thought he had a better mousetrap and watched it grow and prosper with a small staff and an amazing client roster. At first it was exciting and fun. The novelty of being the boss and running the show was great. However, there was one thing missing.


After a few years of what others would consider success, Sinek lost his passion for the work. He didn't have a clue why he was doing what he was doing and was terribly unhappy. For a while he hid the truth and from others. He tried to "fake it 'til you make it" because he was embarrassed over what he thought was an insignificant, first-world style problem. In his fourth year he couldn't fake it any longer. He realized that his work had no deep meaning or purpose for him, so he gave it all up and became obsessed with finding his "why."

It paid off big-time. His break-thru moment was discovering what he calls "The Golden Circle," now made famous by his TEDx talk with more than 22 million views to date. Since that time he's written several books on leadership and consults with top government agencies and major companies around the world on the subject.

Here are 6 key lessons on leadership I learned from Simon:

1. You MUST find your "why"

Every company must understand three things before they start: What they do. How they do it. And most importantly, why they're doing it. According to Sinek's Golden Circle theory, "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." There are many purpose-based companies that are great examples including Apple, TOMS, Starbucks and more. Great leaders understand their "why" and find partners, employees and customers, who believe what they believe.

2. Impact still beats sales when measuring success

Sinek was at the Pentagon meeting with a general consulting on the topic of leadership. The general said, "Simon, I've had everyone in my office read your book." Simon replied, "My publisher thanks you." The general explained that he had everyone read his own copy. Total book sales? 1. Total impact? Huge. Compare that to when you go to an event and receive a free book but only use it as a coaster. Total sales for the author? Maybe 500...Total impact? Zero. Sales are important and easy to measure but impact is often overlooked. Great leaders are playing the long game and investing in impact over short-term clicks, views or sales.

3. Real courage starts with vulnerability

Courage is often found in relationships when you know someone's got your back. As humans we need to be with others. When we are with others, if we are willing to be vulnerable with them and still feel safe, it gives us more courage. Ironically, when most of us are faced with adversity we retreat inside our shell. We try and solider on alone, not wanting to burden others with our trials or challenges. Like a fish out of water we flap away from helping hands when we should be letting others who care reach us. Great leaders understand the depth of their vulnerability is a measure of their courage.

4. Give people power to destroy the business and trust they won't use it

Trust is not only key, it's paramount to success. Will there be a few bad eggs? Yes, but they are not the majority. That's also why it's so important for leadership to hire people who believe what they believe. People rise above when they are treated with a high degree of respect. That's why you shouldn't double-check your employee's work or micromanage. And why at companies like The Container Store, they don't check the employee's bags at security as they leave each day.

Leadership doesn't mean blind trust, it's about giving people responsibility and making them accountable. In this scenario, if you (the boss) choose to take a vacation, you can expect the old saying to change from "While the cat's away the mice will play" to "While the cat's away, the mice work harder because they don't want to disappoint you." Your team will want to prove to you that all of your trust in them is merited.

5. Power always belongs to the people

Dictatorships are built on keeping people at a distance and divided, rigging elections and false propaganda. Leadership is often a skill that needs to be learned but is seldom ever taught in organizations. Ridiculous, right? There are many people in authority in companies who have risen thru the ranks because they are good at their jobs but that doesn't mean you should follow them. Managers are responsible for results. Real leadership is about taking care of the people so the people can take care of the business.

6. There's only one common factor in all my failed relationships--me.

Tell me if this sounds familiar if you're the boss: "All I ever do is give, give, give and they just take." First, let's define what you're actually "giving." If it's just money then you're probably failing. People want a lot more than money. They want to feel safe and valued. They want your time and professional growth. Do you only look for impeccable resumes and hurry to hire people without getting to know them? Do you know whether they're a fit for the organization? If you're not sure they believe what you believe you're doing it wrong. Great leaders don't take shortcuts. They are building organizations that will outlast them and live into the future.

What did I leave out? Watch this full episode of Behind the Brand, it's pure gold. I promise! Tweet me @BryanElliott with comments!