Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last, launched the Public Library Association's lecture series called Big Ideas with a lively talk that focused on how ours bodies work to create natural circles of safety in which we can survive and thrive. In doing so, he told us why our bodies produce endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and cortisol, the dangers of an imbalance of these chemicals, and how good leaders take advantage of our biochemical tendencies to develop safe working and living environments for their communities.
Being an incredibly down-to-earth speaker, Sinek made this complex-sounding topic understandable and relevant to all of us. He did this by starting with a story about a pilot fighting in the war in Afghanistan in 2002, the point of which was that the pilot took great risks with his life because he belonged to a community that inspired such dedication. He compared this willingness to sacrifice with the lack of brotherly concern within some corporations and then asked whether the difference was good people and bad people. His answer was "no." What mattered was the quality of environments, which is to some degree created by their leaders.
The gist is that leaders need to create environments where community members feel safe enough to themselves be creative. They must know their leaders will fight for them and protect them even at sacrificial cost to themselves. Then employees will work faithfully and beyond call for their leaders.
Sinek emphasized that rank is not the same as leadership. Leaders may emerge at any level in a community. In times when charity is needed, leaders give more than money. They give non-replaceable commodities, such as time and effort. This is why they are admired.
Sinek also posed that diversity in a community is important for more than just equality for diverse types of people; having people of diverse experience (which will come from people of diverse ethnicity) will provide a community with valuable diverse thoughts.
Quotes worth remembering: "Leadership is a choice that comes with a cost" and "Everyone of us has the ability to be the leader we wish we had."