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Leadership & Management

The infinite game in leadership

Health Industry Hub | May 11, 2020 |

Great leaders set the environment under which their employees thrive. This includes a psychologically safe and trusting culture in which people can enjoy autonomy and security while pursuing a purpose greater than self or money. Wise leaders envision where they will be generations from now, in pursuit of world-changing goals.

Simon Sinek, the author of The Infinite Game, believes a long-term view toward the greater good can inspire your workforce and lift everyone’s commitment. Achieving this goal demands a focused effort with a view to the infinite.

Since 1978, Sinek notes that CEO compensation has skyrocketed, a reflection of executive compensation that companies tie to investor returns. Over that time span, firms behaved unethically more often, testing the law for their advantage.

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Money alone can’t drive engagement. That’s why companies craft purpose statements and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Beyond the necessity of earning revenues and profit, firms must make the workplace psychologically safe by investing in employee development and by being of service. “The true value of an organisation is measured,” the author writes, “by the desire others have to contribute to that organisation’s ability to keep succeeding.”

Careers and companies have no winners, yet people, especially leaders, often act as though they do. They compete in as if they’re engaged in a short-term, winner-take-all finite game. Corporate leaders make claims about being the best or first, but they base those assertions on data of their own choosing. Instead, he is adamant, firms should make decisions that position them for longevity.

A finite mind-set might give a leader a short-term win according to that leader’s self-selected metrics. But by slashing or terrorising the workforce, cutting R&D, growing by acquisition or using stock buybacks, these leaders hurt their firms’ long-term prospects. The author warns that employees notice these consequences. They may leave, withdraw, disengage, hoard information or collaborate less. The impact mounts gradually.

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Business leaders need a compelling mission – a “Just Cause.” Employees will sacrifice time and other opportunities in pursuit of something bigger than themselves. Growing and making money don’t constitute a cause because it lack meaning and encourages the wrong behaviours.

Finite-minded leaders put results and sales ahead of their employees, leading to mass redundancies whenever a crisis emerges. Infinite-minded leaders put their people first. They look at all possible options, such as granting unpaid time off instead of firing people. This approach might require spending more time balancing the books, but doesn’t break trust or harm a team’s commitment to the company.

Trust is a positive motivator, while fear is entirely negative. Fear makes people hoard information, resist helping their colleagues and lie to avoid punishment. Psychological safety and trust defeat fear. When people feel free to bring their whole selves to their work, they flourish, share information, collaborate, serve, innovate and solve problems.

Author Simon Sinek has his own ‘Just Cause’, which he defines as making a world in which almost everyone can feel inspired by, safe in and fulfilled by their work.


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