Video: Most Leaders Don't Even Know the Game They're In - Simon Sinek

December 18th, 2020



Juniors only need to be good at their job.

They get training to do a good job.

People get promoted when they are good

When they are promoted

  • they stop being responsible for the work

  • they are responsible for the people that are responsible for the work

They don't get little or no training on how to lead people.

They micro-manage because they know how to do the job better, that's why they got the promotion.


anecdote: barista at hotel

Environment creates customer experience, not the people

barista was wonderful, at one hotel, loves his jobs, managers passing ask him if there's anything he needs to do his job better

same barista works at another place, keeps his head down, managers try to catch him not doing his job

It's not the people, it's the leadership (they create the environment)


Leaders need

  • Empathy

  • Perspective



(A) Empathy


Empathy is

  • asking someone how they're doing and be interested in the answer (instead of rushing to a meeting)

  • letting someone in front of you in traffic

  • "I noticed that your numbers are down for a third quarter in a row. I'm worried about you. Are you okay?" (instead of threats)


One group that can use some empathy is the millennials


Model: millennial have been dealt a bad hand

  1. Parenting

  2. Technology

  3. Impatience

  4. Environment



(1) Failed parenting strategies

  • Participation medals devalue winning and shame losing

  • School grades/honour-programs because parents complain instead of working for it

  • Millennials learn

  • They are special

  • When they start working they learn that all those beliefs are wrong

  • You are not special

  • This causes their self esteem to shatter

  • They have lower self esteem than other generations


Millennials learned with social media to curate what parts of their life to show. They will seem confident when they are not.


We say "our door is always open"

assuming they have the courage

to walk through the door



(2) Technology

Dopamine addiction to cope with stress

Dopamine gives a great feeling when you achieve something

  • cross off todo

  • win game

  • get promotion

  • find your keys

When we're very very young, the only approval we need is approval from our parents.

And then as we go through adolescence, we now crave the approval of our peers.

It allows us to acculturate outside of our immediate family into the larger tribe.

It's a time of high stress and high anxiety.

And we're supposed to learn to rely on our friends.

Adolescence is a stressful time

  • Youths should loosen from family into the larger tribe

  • Youths should learn to cope with stress by leaning on friends

Addicts learn their addiction during adolescence

  • Dopamine numbs stress

  • Alcohol, nicotine, gambling trigger dopamine

  • Instead of friends, addicts learn to numb the stress with their addiction

  • That addiction becomes hardwired in the brain for coping with stress

  • Coping by addiction resurfaces in times of elevated stress

Cellphones and social media triggers dopamine release

The "bing, buzz, flash and beep" that we get from our phones.

That feels so good.

Yes we all hate the emails, but we love the "bing"

Adolescents have unrestricted access to social media and cellphones

  • Alcohol, nicotine, gambling have age restrictions

  • Social media and cellphones have no age restrictions

It's the equivalent of throwing open the liquor cabinet.

And telling our young adolescents:

"I know this is a stressful time,

try the vodka it will get you through these hard times"


Our young generation isn't learning the coping skills

to turn to another human being when they are struggling or stressed

They are turning to social media and cellphones


Cellphones prevent connection with people that are present

This generation struggles to form deep, meaningful relationships

Rises of

  • depression

  • suicide

  • accidental death due to drug overdose

  • kids asking leaves of absence from universities



(3) Impatience

often accused of being "entitled"

but I would argue that they are impatient

Grew up with instant gratification

  • Shopping online, next day delivery

  • Movies: download, stream

  • TV show: binge

  • Talk to someone: text and they'll get back instantly

  • Date: swipe right, have 4 dates in a night

It's as if they are standing at the foot of a mountain

They know exactly what they want

They can see the summit

What they don't see is the mountain


I'm not making an impact

  • impact as destination instead of journey

  • don't know what that means "impact"

  • we all want to make an impact

  • what kind of impact

  • it's become generic and abstract



(4) Environment

Corporate environments that do not care about them as human beings


Our work world has changed over the past 20 to 30 years

We are suffering the side effects of business theories left over from the 80's and 90's

And they are bad for people

And they are bad for business

Shareholder supremacy

  • theory proposed in late 1970's, popularised in 80's and 90's, now standard form

  • any public company's priority "maximise shareholder value"

Mass layoffs

  • using someone's livelihood to balance the books

You know the quickest way to destroy trust, destroy cooperation,literally in one day?

Lay people off.

And everyone get's scared.

  • even people who kept their jobs

Every single decision a company makes is a piece of communication.


And the company has just communicated to everybody else:

"this is not a meritocracy"

"we don't care how hard you work or how long you've worked here"

"if we miss our numbers and you happen to fall on the wrong side of the spreadsheet, I'm sorry we cannot guarantee employment"


In other words, we come to work every day, afraid...



Vulnerability means to create an environment in which someone feels safe enough to say:

- I don't know what I'm doing

- You've given me a job and I haven't been trained to do it

- I need help

- I made a mistake

- I screwed up

- I'm scared

- I'm worried


How can a company ever do well if nobody's ever willing to admit they made a mistake, they're scared or they don't know what they're doing.


We've created cultures in which every single day everybody comes to work and lies, hides and fakes.


How do I get the most out of my people


How do I help my people be at their natural best


anecdote: driving and someone's trying to cut into our lane



(B) Perspective


Model: finite vs infinite games

Finite game:

  • Known players

  • Fixed rules

  • Agreed upon objective


Infinite game:

  • Known and unknown players

  • Rules are changeable

  • Objective is to keep the game in play

  • no winners and losers

  • player drops out when will or resources run out


Stable combinations

  • Finite + finite (eg. baseball)

  • Infinite + infinite (eg. cold war)


Problem combination:

  • finite + infinite (eg. Vietnam war, Soviet Union in Afghanistan)



Business is an infinite game

Most companies play business as if it's a finite game

  • "we're trying to beat the competition"

  • "we're trying  to be number one"

  • "we're ranked number one"


Some companies play business as an infinite game

It's the leaders and the companies

that understand the game they are in

and organise their resources and their decision-making

around the infinite contest,

that outlast and frustrate their competition

  • eg. Southwest Airlines, Apple Computers, Harley Davidson

Public companies are looking to succeed for the quarter.

We're looking for the next 50 years.

-- Jim Senegal (Founder of Costco)

// only real company that gives Wallmart a run for it's money


The infinite player isn't playing to be number one every day with every product.

They are playing to outlast the competition.


They understand that

sometimes you're a little bit ahead and sometimes you're a little bit behind

sometimes your product is better and somtimes you're not

But if you wake up every morning and compete against yourself:

- How do I make our products better than they were yesterday?

- How do I take care for our customers better than we did yesterday?

- How do we advance our cause more efficiently, more productively than we did yesterday?

- How do we find new solutions to advance our calling, our purpose, our belief, our why, every single day


every bankruptcy and merger & acquisition is a player dropping out because they don't have the will or the resources to continue playing