Before I get into any criticism of Simon Sinek… let me say I am a huge Simon Sinek fan. How I believe Sinek got it wrong is only one perspective.
He is doing well. Simon Sinek is teaching and people are learning.
I encourage everyone to deconstruct each of their teachers. To think critically is so much more important than thinking prescribed thoughts.
If you are a fan also, just hang with me for a minute. If you are prone to criticize Simon Sinek already, consider his worth.
This is not a bash post.
Sinek tells about he and a friend following a person on a busy street. They have a conversation about how great it was to help, as a bag was dropped and papers flew all around.
He also tells the same story, minus the friend. Same story, but the players changed somehow.
I do not care to wonder for which version was told first, or to find out which is more accurate. One of them (at least) is a false narrative.
Simon Sinek proudly tells a story about how, after completing a marathon, he cut line to get a bagel. He believes he was thinking outside of the box and that everyone won that day.
First, I get it. You can run a marathon.
Second, seriously? Think about it for a minute. Who saw him and his friend skipping line and thought, “boy that guy is really thinking outside of the box… I applaud his innovative thinking.”
Sinek got it wrong here. He believes that somehow people need to feel empowered and safe. That everyone’s opinion matters.
Then he props up the military version of team building. This may be because he has never been in the military. I could not say.
Military teams have to be what they are in order to accomplish what they have to accomplish. If you translate that into what corporate teams should be, you might find yourself cutting line for a bagel.
Most of the team building in the military is based on compliance and not the free expression of thought. That is not good or bad, but it is a direct contradiction to the theme of Sinek’s underlying message to leaders.
I imagine that mostly entrepreneurs listen to Simon Sinek. If you are building a business from scratch, a lot of what he says makes sense.
If you find yourself in an organization that is every bit as horrible as the corporate structure he mentions in his lectures, you are not in a position to change things. You just are not.
Listening to Sinek while you are in middle management, is a bit like reading MLK Jr while you are living in abject poverty in the middle of a housing project. We all want to dream. We all, also, have to work from where we are.
Should you find yourself in a situation where corporate structure violates everything you stand for as a human, you can do two things. Each of which is as honorable as the other.
You can fight within the system to change the system. You may have some success. Focus on those in your immediate circle and care for them as if they were family.
You can also bow out. Sometimes it makes more sense to let others fight those battles. We all want to care for others. At times, your biggest lesson will be taught, when you allow them to care for themselves.
Personally, I have approached change in both of these ways. In business, religion, charitable organizations, and in volunteer work. We do what we can, where we can.
We may find that there are friends along the way, and we will always want what is best for everyone. Usually, friendships last, because they were formed with a concern for others, and not greed, as the base.
Did Simon Sinek Get It Wrong?
Yes and no.
He did get it wrong in some ways. He also got it right.
At the very least, Simon Sinek is willing to have the conversation surrounding culture in the corporate world. His thoughts prompt original thought and concern.
The issue becomes what people do with those conversations. Simon Sinek cannot be held responsible for all of that hot mess.
Know what you are dealing with. Listen before you speak.
Be willing to lay it all on the line.
There is a good chance you will lose your job if you are working to reform a system full of good ole boys and people who get their proverbial rocks off talking about how much money they make.
You are at risk. You just are.
Also, give grace to those people in your mind. They are only acting how they have learned to act. When companies value profit over people, it is usually coming from a sense of insecurity and fear.
Trust yourself. If you feel weird about a situation, deal with it head on.
You would not go into a cage at the zoo, with lions, if you wanted to find a pet kitten, and you do not go into a corporation expecting “you” from “others”.
Be smart about how much of yourself you give away, and be smart about to whom you give that same self.
Decide for yourself is Simon Sinek got it wrong.
Have a great day.