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I think it’s both exciting and
depressing that messages like mine have
an audience you know I talk about really
simple things like how to be fulfilled
you know and like how to do things that
inspire us and how to work for a company
that sort of gets the best out of us and
makes us feel good while they’re doing
it and and you know it’s kind of
upsetting that people even want to hear
that meaning that there’s a demand for
it but it also presents the most
remarkable opportunity in the world
which means there’s an opportunity for
us to change the way work is done so
that all of those things are not the
exception but rather the rule you know
it’s it’s it is the exception when
somebody says I love my job you know so
you meet somebody at a bar like what do
you do I love my job
oh you’re so lucky right it’s like that
that should be something special is
and so the amazing thing is is that
ability to say I love my job I love what
I do is actually not that complicated to
find and not ironically it has nothing
to do with the work that we do it has
everything to do with the people with
whom we work and you don’t even have to
like the people with whom you work
that’s the most amazing thing of all if
you think about it in the military there
are people who are willing to risk their
lives for people they don’t even like we
don’t even like to give a credit for
thing you know so what is it that
creates an environment in which
we’ll care about each other so much that
they would risk their lives for people
that they don’t even like right
sometimes this is remarkable human
beings in all their complexity and all
of the nonsense and all the messiness
what drives us is kind of simple and
this is what I like to research and
learn about and write about which is you
understand the very basic mechanics of
this machine called the human being
it’s becomes fairly obvious as to what
conditions in which the machine will
perform well and in what conditions the
machine will not perform well very
simply our machine is a social machine
we are social animals and we respond to
the environment we’re in that’s it good
people are capable of doing very bad
things if they’re in the wrong
environment and people who society may
have given up on if you put them in the
right environment are capable of
performing remarkable remarkable things
this is the job of leadership which is
to make that environment the leader sets
the tone and the tone that is set will
determine how we respond accordingly and
again we are relatively simple in our
motivations if you go back to the
Paleolithic era when Homo Sapien first
stepped foot on the planet about 50,000
years ago there were other hominid
species that existed at the same time
but we were the ones that survived they
died we weren’t necessarily the
strongest we weren’t necessarily the
fastest and yet we’ve done quite well
look at this remarkable world that we’ve
built one of the huge advantages we had
and have is that we are social animals
and things like trust and cooperation
are absolutely essential for our
survival they’re not just nice ideas
they’re absolutely essential you can
imagine why when we existed when we
lived in populations that never really
got bigger than about 150 people for
40,000 of the 50,000 years we’ve been on
this planet we never lived in
populations bigger than a hundred and
fifty people I understand scale presents
some inherent problems
but you can you can understand the
benefits of the group living what it
meant was I could fall asleep at night
and trust that someone in my tribe was
watch for danger if I didn’t trust the
people in my tribe I couldn’t go to
sleep and this is not a very good system
for survival or performance or anything
any other metric it’s the same at work
when we work with people with whom we
trust I don’t need to double-check your
I don’t need to see it before it goes
out to you know I don’t need you don’t
need my approval
right when we have trust we can let
people go do their work and even if
they’re subordinate we don’t need to
double-check or approve or anything
things will happen because we trust them
because we all have each other’s backs
we all have each other’s interests in
mind the problem with things like trust
and cooperation is that they are not
instructions I constantly tell you trust
me you can’t simply ask people to trust
you in your advertising and you can’t
simply tell people I want you to to
cooperate trust and cooperation are
feelings and this is the problem so the
question is whether those feelings come
from now again we are basic pretty
simple in in our motivation in our
constructions you can imagine what light
or color faded you can imagine what life
must have been like in these Paleolithic
times it was a world filled with danger
all of these forces working extremely
hard to kill us whether it was the
weather or lack of resources saber-tooth
Tiger nothing personal but all of these
forces were working together to end our
lives and so as tribal animals we work
together and lived and worked amongst
people around whom we felt safe we felt
and when we felt safe amongst the people
with whom we lived and work the natural
human response is trust in cooperation
it’s just what happens when we do not
feel safe amongst the people with whom
we work however the natural human
inclination is cynicism paranoia
mistrust and self-interest when we do
not feel safe amongst the people with
whom we work if our leaders do not make
us feel safe we have no choice but to
spend our own time in our own energy to
protect ourselves from each other when
we do not fear each other we naturally
work together to face the dangers and
seize the opportunities it’s the exact
same thing in our modern business world
there are forces that are a constant and
beyond our control that are working to
kill you right maybe I’m exaggerating
but there are forces outside things like
the uncertainty of an economy the ups
and downs of a stock market a new
technology that might render a business
model obsolete overnight your
competition that sometimes is trying to
kill you it’s trying to destroy that
product to put you out of business but
at the very minimum is trying to
frustrate your growth and steal your
customers these forces are a constant
and you have no control over them and
never will the only variable are the
conditions inside the organization and
when those conditions are set in a
manner that allows us to feel like we
can trust and cooperate we do
this is what leaders are supposed to do
there is an exact definition of
leadership and it is not my opinion you
know III I love all the books that come
out and all the articles what makes a
great leader what are the five things
you need to be a leader you need
charisma you need vision you know all of
these things I can tell you right now
those things are sometimes useful but
they’re not essential
not everyone has vision does that mean
they’re they’re not allowed to be
leaders you know some people have
remarkable charisma and some people
don’t does that mean they will never
lead of course it’s all nonsense you
can’t manufacture these things some
people are good strategic thinkers and
some people are not some people are just
naturally good at basketball and some
people are not there are skills you can
get better at them for sure but you’re
either a visionary or not these are not
things that we can manufacture in other
words they’re not essential common
components for leadership there’s only
one characteristic that I’m comfortable
saying that all leaders must have to
become leaving and that’s courage
because leadership is hard and it often
requires sacrifice and the that will
happen that you will have to put your
interests your comforts your advantages
aside so that others may gain and that
sometimes really hard in fact standing
up for others may mean that you might
get your head chopped off you know a
leader sometimes loses their job because
they did the right thing right that
comes with significant risk the choice
to be a leader comes at significant risk
and this is why not everyone chooses to
be a leader
leadership has nothing to do with the
rank it has nothing to do with the title
you have on your card leadership is a
choice that’s it
I know many many people who sit in the
senior echelons of a corporation and
they are not leaders
they are authorities and they have
authority and we do what they say
because they have authority over us but
we would not follow them I know many
people who sit at the bottom of
organizations who have no authority but
they are absolutely leaders and the Rees
their leaders is because they have made
a choice they have chosen to look after
the person to the left of them and they
have chosen to look after the person to
the right of them it doesn’t always mean
they have to sacrifice their interests
but when it really counts sometimes they
choose to sacrifice their interests
because it’s in the interest of the
person to the left and to the right of
them this is what leadership is the role
of leaders is not an accident either
it’s built into our anthropology it’s
part of our survival the reason we have
hierarchy and we have leaders for those
times when we lived in these austere
conditions we had a little bit of a
problem it’s a very practical problem it
wasn’t necessarily enough food to go
around all the time you didn’t miss as
we didn’t have supermarkets and cars we
just go get milk sometimes there was
food readily available and sometimes not
which meant if someone brought home some
food and we’re living in a population of
up to a hundred and fifty we would all
rush in to eat because we’re all hungry
and if you were lucky enough to be built
like a football player you could shove
your way to the front of the line if you
were the artist of the family you would
get an elbow in the face this is not a
good system for cooperation it’s not a
good system for survival because the
odds are that if I got punched in the
face this afternoon I’m not gonna wake
the guy if I see danger bad system and
so we evolved into these hierarchical
animals we are constantly assessing and
judging each other whose alpha whose
beta we are naturally higher are when we
always organize ourselves in hierarchies
so even in meetings we go to meeting
like everybody’s equal I want you guys
to work together it’s not gonna happen
we are never equals we always assess we
always judge we always allow some others
some difference in the role of
leadership and some of us defer and sort
of take a more subordinate role it
always happens not necessarily a bad
and again the reasons are very practical
based on our history because what would
happen was when we would assess someone
as our alpha and let me be clear your
capacity to be an alpha in any
population is not an absolute it is
relative to the population you’re at
so you might be a technologist or an
engineer and you might think you’re the
hottest best most fantastic engineer and
so does everybody else and you walk
around like this and you go take a dance
class all of a sudden you egos not so
big anymore right we’ve all had the
experience right we’ve all had the
experience where we shake someone’s hand
and we’re nervous
you’re not the Alpha you know or when we
consent that someone’s nervous meeting
us you’re the Alpha right it’s it’s a
relative scale so when we assess that
someone in the population is our alpha
we voluntarily step back and allow them
first choice of meat and first choice of
mate we let them eat first we may not
get the best choice of meat but we will
eat eventually and we didn’t have to get
an elbow in the face to get that food
good system to this day we are very
comfortable with paying deference and
offering advantages to those more senior
than us there’s not a single person in
this room zero that has a problem with
somebody more senior than you at the
company making more money than you as a
salary by having a bigger salary than
you it doesn’t bother you at all you
might think they’re an idiot but it
doesn’t actually bother you that they
make more money than you because they
outrank you no issue it doesn’t bother
us at all that somebody more senior than
us has a bigger office or a better
parking space it is of no issue
whatsoever in fact we very often find
ourselves deferring to our alphas doing
nice things for our foes we open doors
for them and call them sir and ma’am and
get them tea and they didn’t even ask I
can promise you that if as you were
walking out of this room if Steven
Spielberg happened to walked in walk in
you would hold the door open for him and
then you would go home and tell your
spouse or your boyfriend your girlfriend
you’ll never believe what happened today
I held the door open for Steven
Spielberg how come you don’t advertise
when you hold the door open for anybody
else it’s because we’re proud to
sometimes do menial labor for those who
we perceive as alphas in our system
we’re proud to work for the groups that
they lead and the organizations that
they lead by the way you can’t lead a
company you can run a company you can
only lead people
and so this whole idea of deference and
how we always deference the volunteer to
these alphas is a natural human response
and it’s a survival instinct and it’s
all about this and that’s the point
none of those perks that you get for
being the leader for being the alpha
none of them come free they come at a
very high expense you see the group is
not dumb
we expect that the person who’s better
fed the person who’s actually stronger
or smarter than us the person who has a
higher self-confidence has more
self-confidence but crucible or our love
and deference in hello sir and hello mmm
and actually boost their self compass we
expect that this more confidence
stronger better fed person when danger
threatens the tribe we expect them to
rush towards the danger to protect us
that’s the cost of leadership that’s why
we gave you first choice of mate because
you might die and we want to keep your
genes in the gene pool we’re not stupid
and this is what it means to be a leader
the willingness to rush towards the
danger to protect those in your care it
is a choice you don’t have to be a
leader it is a choice if you don’t like
the costs of leadership you may not
accept the perks of leadership because
they do not come for free this is the
reason why we are so viscerally offended
by some of the banking CEOs have these
disproportionate salaries and bonus
structures it’s not the money that
offends us it’s that we know deep inside
us that they have violated the very
definition of what it means to be a
leader they have accepted all of the
perks and bonuses and benefits of being
the leader and yet they’re not willing
to make any of the sacrifices for the
role that they have accepted in other
words we know that they allowed their
people to be sacrificed for them to keep
their bonuses and perks and advantages
worse sometimes they chose to sacrifice
their people to protect their bonuses
and their perks this is what so offends
us it’s not the money if I told you
we’re going to give a hundred and fifty
million dollar bonus to Nelson Mandela
does anyone have a problem with that
no how about a 250 million dollar bonus
to mother Teresa got an issue with that
no it’s not the money it’s not the money
it’s that leadership is a choice and in
our modern day and age unfortunately
many of the people who like to call
themselves leaders are not leaders at
they are authorities that’s all they are
and we have to do what they say because
they have authority over us but we would
not follow them and this is a problem
because when we do not feel that they
have our backs we we do not feel safe
working inside their organizations they
force us to spend our time and IR energy
to protect ourselves from them and the
organization itself suffers it’s what
it’s ironic to me
that organisations like your own who
want to drive innovation and ideas and
new ways of thinking would in the same
breath lay people off because they
didn’t make the numbers in one year you
do realize that those two concepts are
completely counterproductive it’s like
talking to a CEO and I ask what are your
priorities I say we have two priorities
innovation and efficiency not possible
there is nothing efficient about
innovation try fail try fail try fail
try fail try fail try fail succeed not
it takes so you throw money to try
things out you can be innovative or you
can be efficient you can be efficient in
hopeful innovation and you can be
innovative and hope for efficiency
there’s always gonna be one subordinate
to the other not that not better or
worse but let’s not kid ourselves and
think that they can be equal ground they
cannot it is impossible but worse an
organization that claims or hopes or
desires or aspires to be innovative must
at every expense commit themselves to
the safety of their people because only
when we feel safe and protected will we
voluntarily commit ourselves the support
of each other and the advancement of the
vision there are very simple ways to do
this here are just a few great leaders
would never sacrifice the numbers would
never sacrifice the people to save the
numbers great leaders would sacrifice
the numbers to save the people and so
when we live in a day and age where our
leaders are so comfortable sending you
home to tell your spouse and your kids
I’m sorry I no longer have an income
because the company had to make its
numbers for the year forget about the
people who lost their jobs what about
the people who didn’t get laid off
how inspire do you think they feel to
come back to work every day how do you
how safe do you think they feel do you
think we’re gonna give our best knowing
next time if the company doesn’t make
its numbers by the way which may or may
not have anything to do with us remember
all of those outside dangers the ups and
downs of technologies the ups and downs
of stock markets the ups and downs of
economies you think when you have a bad
year you set your children down and say
kids it’s been a bad year we have to get
rid of one of you or worse or worse I
got to keep my Mercedes and so it’s
either you or the car and we’ve picked
you right know we tighten the belt we
work together we figure out ways to make
it happen to see it through the hard
times we cannot judge the quality of a
crew based on how they perform in good
times we judge a quality of the crew by
how they perform in rough waters and
unfortunately we throw our crew
overboard when we hit rough waters what
makes them want to commit to see the
ships make it through the rough waters
what they do is they sit down and watch
their own backs because nobody else is
gonna watch my back there is no
innovation and in a group like that
there is no innovation in a group like
backstabbing ideas stealing plenty of
that nothing personal gotta look after
numero uno
so number one people come first numbers
are always subordinate people numbers
will not rescue you in hard times people
will numbers will not come up with new
people will numbers are not innovative
people are that’s number one another one
which is really really really easy is
honesty it’s really easy to be honest
just tell the truth and if you tell the
truth on a regular basis we will say you
have integrity that’s all it means he’s
a really basic concept so for example if
somebody calls and a secretary picks up
the phone and says Dave’s on the phone
and you say I’m not here you’ve just
sanctioned lying inside your
organization that’s what you’ve done you
have said that when it suits you even if
these lies are small you may tell lies
that was dishonest I went to visit
Quantico Marine base where the Marine
Corps chooses selects their officers and
on the day I was there true story
I was waiting in a conference room for
the colonel in charge of OCS to come and
give us a briefing on on the base about
about OCS about the selection process
and he arrived late Marines don’t ever
arrive late and he showed up late he
came in and apologized he said I’m sorry
we’ve had an incident with one of our
Marines so I go what happened you know
he said well we’re considering throwing
him out of OCS which means throw him out
of the Marine Corps like I’m thinking what Lord
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