Participants in the World Credit Union Conference, who have spent the past four days talking about such topics as payment systems, mobile technology, social media and wealth management, were in for something a little different Wednesday morning: a science lesson with a twist.
The topic was leadership, which according to author and leadership guru Simon Sinek is simply a matter of body chemistry. Sinek, who was born in the U.K.but has lived in the United States for many years, is the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,
Sinek’s entertaining and innovative presentation on what makes good leaders centres around four chemicals released by the human brain: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. And according to Sinek, these chemicals have a lot to do with leadership behaviour.
Endorphins, for example, provide physical drive and endurance, while dopamine helps us achieve our goals and “makes sure we get things done.” Serotonin gives us pride and self-confidence, and oxytocin is the chemical behind love and acts of kindness.
“The human body is trying to get us to look after each other,” Sinek said, “The goal is to balance the system so that people feel safe. When leaders send a circle of safety to every part of an organization, those are the best organizations in the world.”
He gave the example of Costco, which had been criticized on Wall Street for giving its employees generous wages and benefits. But Costco stock has been steadily rising, while companies that pinched pennies and laid off staff were more vulnerable to market fluctuations.
Sinek said the tendency for some people to emerge as leaders is also rooted in biology: we accept leadership – and its accompanying perks — because we expect leaders to protect us from harm.
“If you want to enjoy the perks of leadership, you must be willing to sacrifice yourself to protect the group.”