Simon Sinek, of “Start with Why” fame, uses the example in military organisations that have strong cultures and shared values, understand the importance of teamwork, create trust among their members, maintain focus, and, most important, understand the importance of people and relationships to their mission success.
In the United States Marine Corps, the junior ranks eat first, while the senior officers wait their turn before eating last. At the heart of this very simple action is the Marine Corps’ approach to leadership. Marine leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.
This analogy is used to explain the importance of leaders being highly focused on their people because they understand that the cost of failure can be catastrophic. Mission failure is not an option, as it almost certainly leads to death.
Professional managerial competence is not enough to be a good leader; good leaders must truly care about those entrusted to their care.
This explanation of the elements of human behaviour clearly demonstrates that there are real reasons why some organisations may do well over a short period of time but eventually fail. The leadership has failed to create an environment where people really do matter. As Simon Sinek points out, organisations where people share values and are valued succeed over the long term in both good and bad times.
A leader who takes care of his team and stays focused on the well-being of the organisation can never fail. Without a doubt, your people will enable the success of your start-up.
Under the right conditions, the people whom you lead to higher vocations will be prepared to do battle with you in the trenches. And when that happens, when those kinds of bonds are formed, a strong foundation is laid for the kind of success and fulfilment that no amount of money, fame or awards can buy. This is what it means to work in a place in which the leaders prioritise the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the well-being of one another and the organisation.
As a leader, not a manager, your greatest legacy will be the calibre of your next level of leaders to take over from you once you move on to greater challenges.