Brené Brown and Simon Sinek on the leadership skills we need to build

ReThinking with Adam Grant
Brené Brown and Simon Sinek on the leadership skills we need to build
May 23, 2023

[00:00:00] Adam Grant:
Hey everyone, it's Adam Grant. Welcome back to ReThinking my podcast on the science of what makes us tick. I'm an organizational psychologist and I'm taking you inside the minds of fascinating people to explore new thoughts and new ways of thinking. My guests today are Brené Brown and Simon Sinek. Arguably the two most influential thought leaders on leadership today. Their TED Talks have over 160 million views. And their books have sold millions of copies. Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston, renowned for her work on vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. Her books include Dare to Lead and The Gifts of Imperfection, and she hosts the podcast Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us. Simon is an ethnographer admired for his ideas around purpose and service. His books include, start With Why and The Infinite Game, and his podcast is A Bit of Optimism. We're often speaking on the same stages and working with the same organizations. We share similar values, and we've had some rich debates about the best ways to bring these values into our work and our lives. Last year, Brené suggested we start a Sisterhood of the Traveling Podcast, so I've swung by both of their shows before and now it's my turn to host to see a wide ranging conversation about leadership. I decided to mix things up and crowdsource some questions from social media too.

Let me just start by saying I wanna rewind the clock, roughly 24 hours, and I, I want you all to know that I'm not a texter at all. Like I basically do all my communication by email, but you two are both better texters than emailers. And so I've abandoned my preferences in this collaboration in order to hear from the two of you. So dutifully, I went to my phone, I texted you, and I said, so what do you wanna talk about tomorrow? And the two of you were useless. You both said, "I'll follow your lead." We're supposed to be talking about leadership here. What kind of leadership is that?

[00:02:12] Simon Sinek:
Well, you're the leader.

[00:02:14] Adam Grant:
I'm not the leader!

[00:02:15] Simon Sinek:
We showed up in Brené's and Brené led us on the conversation she wanted to have. And then you came on mine and I chose chaos and, and now we're here to serve you and to serve ReThinking.

[00:02:25] Adam Grant:
Here's the problem with that, Simon, is I'm the most allergic to leadership of the three of us, which is why you too run organizations and I'm just me.

[00:02:34] Brené Brown:
No, I'm not buying it.

[00:02:36] Adam Grant:
No. Yeah.

[00:02:36] Brené Brown:
I think you have a lot of ideas about what you wanna talk about.

[00:02:40] Adam Grant:
I don't know if I do! But tell me what my ideas are. Cause I wanna know! What's my agenda here? Lead my leadership.

[00:02:45] Brené Brown:
Well, I think in great Adam fashion you'd crowdsource some questions. I did a quick thematic analysis of them.

[00:02:51] Adam Grant:
I do wanna hear the Brené Brown grounded theory of our over 1000 comments and questions that poured in in the past 24 hours. I'm excited for that, but that was also me abdicating leadership. Like, I don't know where I wanna take this. Let's go to our audience.

[00:03:05] Brené Brown:
What a great leadership move. You went to folks and said, how can I be in service? What are you thinking about? What's on your mind? What's on your heart?

[00:03:17] Simon Sinek:
And in good leadership fashion, you take the input from your team, but then you are accountable at some point to make a decision.

[00:03:24] Adam Grant:
Yes. Which is to delegate to Brené who did her qualitative research and no.

[00:03:29] Brené Brown:
Mm-hmm. That's not gonna work.

[00:03:30] Adam Grant:
I do have a few things I want to talk about. This is an unusual conversation because we all kind of operate in the same space and we've gotten to know each other I would say very well over however many years we've been crossing paths. And we've also done a few of these conversations now on your shows. So I wanted to ask you to do a little perspective taking experiment. And I feel like Brené already tipped her hand a little bit, but Simon, what would you say is Brené's view of the most important leadership skill?

[00:04:02] Simon Sinek:
The stuff that Brené talks about as being a good leader are the same as being a good human being. We want our friends and our colleagues and our partners to be curious, and when she should've showed up on in the world was talking about vulnerability, which was a very uncomfortable word for many leaders, and I think for some still is. We owe huge credit to Brené for normalizing some of that language and some of that point of view in this category.

[00:04:28] Adam Grant:
Big time. I'm curious, how would you react to what Simon said? What would you edit or elaborate?

[00:04:33] Brené Brown:
I wouldn't change anything. I think it's true. Who we are is how we lead. Self-awareness, kindness, vision, accountability, trust, just basic skills of being a good human being to other human beings.

[00:04:46] Adam Grant:
All right. Same question. What will Simon say is the most important leadership skill? Simon's biting his nails. I don't think I've ever seen him nervous before.

[00:04:54] Brené Brown:
I don't think I could think about Simon without thinking about trust. And when I think about Simon's approach to trust, it's not formulaic or surface trust. It's really wholehearted really hard. It's always about meeting people where they are. And I think the fundamental thing is, is human connection.

[00:05:20] Adam Grant:
So interesting. So Simon's response to Brené, what you would say was similar to what I would've said, I would've said like, vulnerability is strength, not weakness. That's the Brené Brown view of the world that has changed how we think about leadership. I would've answered this one differently. I would've said, Simon says, find your why. [Simon laughs] I'm sorry, I couldn't resist the Simon says, I'm so excited to use that. I can't believe it's taken me what, over a decade to realize that that's a thing?

[00:05:49] Brené Brown:

[00:05:49] Simon Sinek:
I mean, it's not even low hanging fruit. It's fallen off the tree.

[00:05:52] Brené Brown:

[00:05:53] Adam Grant:
[Laughter] It's like when I, when I realized like, oh, Simon Sinek is an optimist. I can't believe this. This is so exciting. Anyway, I would've said, Simon says, find your why and your why should be in service of something greater than yourself.

[00:06:07] Simon Sinek:
Leadership is a team sport. I think the most important thing is cooperation and, and that none of this stuff is doable alone, and all of my work is in service to the human relationship.

[00:06:20] Simon Sinek:
So starting with why a good why it's not a goal, it's not a product description. A good why is ultimately an act of service, and you were right, Adam, but it is absolutely service to another rather than service to oneself or service to a goal, and even vision, even service to a cause is ultimately service to society. So that would be an accurate description, that it requires more than one. I think people forget that leadership is a team sport. Mm-hmm. There's nothing wrong with ambition and there's nothing wrong with being excited and happy when we get a promotion, but anyone who's reached any level of authority inside an organization, they didn't get there alone. Anyone who thinks that they deserve that position because they earned it by themselves is a weak leader and an ineffective leader over time. And even though, quote unquote, the leader may get all the spotlight and recognition, the good ones know that there's teams of people around them that make them look good.


Um, how rude that we come to his podcast and he leaves like, it's one thing for the guests' mic to drop off, but the host? [Simon laughs]

[00:07:27] Adam Grant:
Hello? Can you hear me?

[00:07:29] Brené Brown:
Yeah. Hi!

[00:07:29] Adam Grant:
Sorry. I don't know what happened, but our internet went down. I mean, I was really having a hard time getting the two of you to lead, so I just thought [Laughter] you know what, if I, if I just leave...

[00:07:37] Simon Sinek:
Right? I used to do that in meetings because I think out loud. I can sometimes dominate a meeting. Me too. Which is not my intention. I'm just thinking. And so I, I know to allow other space to think and to get me to shut up. I would excuse myself and pretend to like go to the bathroom or something and like I'd leave the meeting for half an hour and people would be always worried that I ate something that disagreed with me and I'm just in the hallway, just like dithering around.

[00:08:00] Adam Grant:
I, I heard a term for this recently. Someone described the pattern you're talking about as being an extroverted thinker, which I thought it was interesting cuz it's different from being an extrovert, like you can be an introvert and still do your thinking out loud.

[00:08:12] Simon Sinek:
I don't know why people have to come up with words for things we have words for. I, I think out loud, like, what is wrong with that? It's crystal clear. You know exactly what it means and nobody needs to write a book about being an extroverted thinker. [Adam laughs]

[00:08:27] Brené Brown:
I like it for some reason. It's helpful to me.

[00:08:31] Adam Grant:
I found it helpful too. I'm with Brené.

[00:08:32] Brené Brown:
I'm an introvert, but I'm an extroverted thinker, and that's really hard for the people in my family who are ambiverts for the most part, like most people, but are very introverted thinkers. We have to do this thing now and we say, "We're in the bounce." When I think out loud, I'm very definitive. "Should we buy this house?" Absolutely. A hundred percent. I'm already in it. I'm inhabiting the idea, I'm furnishing it. And like my husband's like, well, you know, he's, I'm, I'm the microwave, he's the crock pot, you know, and then he'll get to the place where he's like, I can see it.

I'm like, oh no, I've moved on three houses down. So now we just do this very formal thing that when we have to make a big decision, we say, we're in the bounce. And you can think inside, outside, wherever you need to think.

[00:09:17] Simon Sinek:
What I've learned to say is I'm thinking out loud here and everybody relaxes and put downs their, puts their pen down, and then when I'm done with my thought, I go, so here's what I want you to do. But learning to say I'm thinking out loud here has been an absolute lifesaver for me and for those around me.

[00:09:32] Adam Grant:
This is such an important leadership skill, and I don't think it's one we teach. I think when Bob Rubin was the US Treasury Secretary, there was this sort of mad dash of his team to get all the information they could possibly gather about gold. And at the end of the day, like there's this big presentation and a report, he's like, why is everybody so into gold? And it turned out that this meme had spread around the, the whole organization, Ruben loves gold. Because thinking out loud, he made an offhand comment about like, oh, I wonder if gold's gonna become more valuable. And everybody took that as gospel.

[00:10:08] Simon Sinek:

[00:10:08] Adam Grant:
Because it was be coming from the leader at the top.

[00:10:10] Brené Brown:

[00:10:10] Simon Sinek:

[00:10:10] Adam Grant:
And when you become a leader, you haven't changed. You don't realize anybody's gonna take you more seriously, but you have this positional authority that leads them to, to all of a sudden follow what you're saying and you lose the permission to think out loud. Or as you're both saying, you have to tell people you're doing it in order for them to, to not overreact to it.

[00:10:31] Brené Brown:
For some reason I always say, "look off the top of my head" or "I'm just spit balling" like pens down let's just think this through for a minute. I do give some qualifiers before I do that more than I used to.

[00:10:42] Simon Sinek:
There's a physiological connection between our hands and how fast we talk, right? So I talk very fast and I move my hands a lot. If I'm with other people who speak fast and move their hands, it's all good. It's all fine. We're all with each other all in the same wavelength. But if I'm in a meeting with somebody who's slower, they think before they speak. What I've learned to do is to interlock my fingers and to hold my hands still, and the strangest thing starts happening, which is I start speaking slower. As you can tell now, and I am not forcing myself to speak slower -- it's because I can't move my hands. I actually speak slower, so I've learned to adjust for the people in the room, or I can just let go of my hands and I'll talk my normal pace and this wonderful physiological connection has really helped me be heard and understood by people who think differently than I do.

[00:11:31] Adam Grant:
When I started doing more public speaking, I heard a lot of be more like Brené, be more like Simon. You need to pause between sentences, slow down between words, like let your points sink in. Like if you talk fast, people think you're smart, but they're not gonna understand or be affected by what you say. And I'm like, I don't care if people think I'm smart, I wanna be effective. I start slowing down. And I like my talks less, and then I, I read some research on it, of course, by Emily Pronin, who showed that there's an effective thought, speed on emotion, that when you're thinking slower and talking slower, you're less energized, it actually reduces your excitement level. And so found it really tricky to say, okay, on the one hand I want to exude energy, but on the other hand, I need to move slowly. And then I read some brand new research showing that if you lower your tone of voice, people actually take you more seriously. And I realized, oh, all I need to do is alternate. I need to bury my pacing and my pitch, and I can still sometimes talk fast with energy.

And then if I pause and slow down, people will take in what I'm saying. And it's amazing to me both of you do this. So naturally I was like a marionette, like somebody had to be pulling the strings to teach me to do this thing. So this is all to say, I envy your ability to make these kinds of changes as if you're a professional actor.

[00:12:50] Brené Brown:
I didn't know it was a thing. I think I just talk like that. I think it's like fifth generation, Texas bullshitter cadence, like, you know, it's the way that my dad and my uncles were like, well, It was hot. It was one of those a hundred degree days in Honda when God damnit I was thinking that, you know, and then it's back slow and then it's like fast and you know, and you're hooked. I've never thought about it intentionally and if I did think about it intentionally, it would be disastrous.

[00:13:15] Simon Sinek:
Adam, what you're talking about is, is the learned skill of good effect of public speaking, which is range and tone and volume and pace are all tools to be engaging. And if something's exciting, you wanna talk really fast about it. But if something's really important, I'm gonna slow down and make that point. I mean, we do it all the time. We do it with our kids, we do it with our friends. Like, listen, you need to do this. This is important. What the skilled public speakers are able to do is bring that very natural tone to a stage.

[00:13:47] Adam Grant:
I wanted to talk about teaching and learning leadership because I realized as I thought about both of your work, one of the places that I've been really disappointed by the existing social science research is how do we teach this as a skill? We know a lot about what good leadership looks like. We, I feel like we know much less about how to move people and help them move from where they are to becoming good or great leaders. And what's interesting is both of you have invested inordinate amounts of time in not just writing and speaking about these topics, but actually working closely with leaders, training them. What have you learned about how to take people who may not be good at leadership and make them better at it?

[00:14:29] Brené Brown:
For our work, it's really skills building. It's really practice skills building, trying on new ways of being, introduction to new language, helping people make a connection between what's happening in our brains and how that's showing up in our bodies. It's really practice. I mean, one of the things we often do is kind of start with what are conversations that you need to have and are not having. And then we put people in triads and they have to have them, and they're never good. They're always cringey and awkward and terrible. And then we really get into some skills building around teaching very specific language. You know, help me understand, walk me through, that's not my experience, the story I'm telling myself. It's not any different than if I said, listen. You just got promoted. In order to keep your job in six months, you have to make 80% of the free throws from the line in order to keep your job. What happens? You and your team get in the gym? And you start throwing and throwing and missing, and missing, and missing.

So one of the, one of the things that we work from is you can't build skills unless you build containers. And so we try to create really safe containers for folks. We don't use safe spaces anymore. We really use the term psychological courage or kind of brave spaces I'm increasingly uncomfortable with especially white facilitators telling people of color, oh no, this is a safe space. Like safe for whom, you know? So I think we build skills, we practice them, we try to build pathways neural path that don't exist. When something happens and it's so stressful or so shame inducing that it takes you offline, how do you get back online and what is that process gonna take? So to me, leadership, it may start with what we understand and know, but they are skills. They're skills that are observable, measurable, teachable. We can practice them and it takes a tremendous amount of courage to put yourself out there and practice things. So you do have to build really some trust with the groups that you're trying on, new ways of showing up with. You know, it's hard.

[00:16:57] Adam Grant:
There was a really interesting analysis that Bruce Avolio and colleagues did some years ago where they tried to estimate the return on investment in leadership development. And they said, look, companies spend a fortune trying to train people in leadership. Does it actually make a difference? And of course there are a lot of different kinds of programs, but if you collapse across all of them, one of the findings is that high performers benefit more than lower performers, so people who are already good at leadership get more out of leadership development than people who are not good at it, and in some ways maybe that's okay because those people are more likely to be in important positions of leadership that influence a lot of people. On the other hand, I think this is the exact opposite of what we're trying to accomplish. So I guess follow up for me is what do you do to get through to people who don't think they need to improve as leaders who are dead set in their ways, who may roll their eyes or disengage around some of the topics that we all care about?

[00:17:51] Simon Sinek:
I would challenge, having not read the research, but I'll challenge the conclusion--

[00:17:56] Adam Grant:
--You would.

[00:17:59] Simon Sinek:
I mean, it's on brand, the old joke, you know, how many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to really wanna change. There was a Marine General who used to be in a friend of mine who is in charge of all Marine Corps training officer enlisted and he said the first criteria to be a leader is you have to wanna be one.

If you go to officer candidate school, your contract says that you have to do the first four weeks, but you can quit at any time for the next six weeks of training because if you don't want to be a leader, they don't want you, they actually let you out of the contract. And so I think where leadership training is effective is number one, the person who's being taught has to want it.

That's number one. I don't think you can force people to be trained to be leaders. They have to want it. Number two, I think is incentive structures. If the incentive structures are completely "what are your quarterly financial targets: and stabbing people in the back is the best way and hoarding information is the best way for me to hit my financial targets. Well, guess what? All the leadership training in the world won't matter cuz you're not incentivizing for them to do any of that stuff. And then the third part, which goes directly to the conclusions of the, of that research, which is leadership is a capacity. Like being a parent is a capacity. Everyone has the capacity to be a parent.

Not everybody should, and not everybody wants to, and leadership is the same. It's one of the flaws in many of our high performing organizations, which is we've created up or out which is if you don't get promoted, then you have to leave. Some people really like being on the team doing good work, and they do not want to be in a management or leadership position. That is not their ambition or desire. And I think where we have made mistakes in our category is we have glorified those who are on the leadership journey. We've said like, you are better because you're in a leadership role versus you're not better because you're one of the best executors on the team.

And I think what we have to do is normalize the fact that they're both equal and they're both important and both necessary.

[00:19:53] Brené Brown:
I would also be interested in understanding the role of equity and inclusion in that data. I work in all kinds of organizations like both of you do, and there are systems that are set up working as built to make sure certain people don't get into leadership. And there's no one that looks like them in leadership and the risk taking and the vulnerability. You know, the vulnerability is not welcomed. It's weaponized. It's not applauded. It's used to confirm really shitty stereotypes. And so I would also question, look, leadership is tough. It requires the willingness to fail in a pretty public way. And if you are in a culture where there are great power differentials based on who you are, gender, race, ability, I'm gonna have a hard time accepting your results. That leadership only works for the best folks because who's defining those folks?

[00:21:04] Simon Sinek:
I think that's so right.

[00:21:05] Brené Brown:
When I think about the question you asked before, it just ties to this and I think it's the right place for it. When I look at my work, I did make an essential mistake. Actually the, the theory stands, it's great. We've taken a hundred thousand people through Dare to Lead all over the world. We have data from all of it. But one of the things that I did is I had a very diverse sample in terms of gender ability, class, race. But one of the things that I've learned, I think is a researcher that's been, that that's, I have a lot of pain around it, to be honest with you, is the diverse sample. Is not enough that when you write about the application of the work, you have to do that from a place of co-creation with people who've had different lived experiences than you.

So when I go into organizations, we excavate all of that and we say, who in the room gets to be vulnerable? Who in the room can't be vulnerable? And if vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity and trust and accountability and ethical decision making, what does that say?

[00:22:12] Adam Grant:
There's a, a very powerful Kathy Phillips paper that showed that one of the clearest drivers of inclusion is literally just being looked at by the leader.

[00:22:22] Brené Brown:

[00:22:23] Simon Sinek:

[00:22:23] Adam Grant:
And that if you tracked leaders eye movement, that had a big influence on whether people in, you know, in low status positions had voiced essentially.

[00:22:33] Simon Sinek:

[00:22:33] Adam Grant:
And I, I think this is obviously one of the things that gets really hard in a virtual setting where like, I found myself, you know, normally I would look to the, the quieter people in the room and make it clear that I wanted to hear from them. Instead, what I've been doing now is I'll send them a private chat message and say, Hey, I noticed you've been quiet. Yeah, I would love to hear your voice. And I think we would all benefit from your perspective. These seem like leadership skills that are not consistently taught are in some ways so micro, that people don't even think about them as leadership, and yet they are fundamental. This is a good segue to some of the crowdsource questions. I want to just start with one of them because it was so on point for this, and let's try to do these lightning style. Mary wants to know what are some of the unexpected or unintuitive skills that leaders need today, which were perhaps not practiced or even accepted as leadership skills in the past.

[00:23:26] Simon Sinek:
All of your work. I mean, Brené, all those human skills that were previously perceived as weak, but actually are sources of strength. I would add one to the list, which is courage. It takes courage to speak truth to power. It takes courage to admit you don't know something. It's, it takes courage to admit you made a mistake. It takes courage to have a difficult conversation. It takes courage to step into discomfort. And I think it is undervalued. Brené, I really love your language of doing away with the idea of a safe space, and I'm gonna adopt your idea there of, of a brave space or a courageous space, or a space for courage. I think that is right on.

[00:23:57] Adam Grant:
You just completely failed the lightning round. Completely failed it.

[00:24:01] Simon Sinek:
Oh, sorry. But well that was lightning for me. Is it relative?

[00:24:04] Adam Grant:
You were thinking out loud. [Adam laughs]

[00:24:06] Brené Brown:
[Brené laughs] Is it relative! Like my, my lightning answer would be to that question, the leadership skill would be learner over knower.

[00:24:13] Simon Sinek:
Oh, good one.

[00:24:14] Adam Grant:
That's how you do it. Yeah, right there. Yeah. That, that is lightning round excellence.

John and Christine each wanted to know how do you keep leading effectively and enthusiastically when you're struggling with your own motivation and energy?

[00:24:28] Simon Sinek:
Find somebody you trust in, in a private space and ask for help.

[00:24:32] Adam Grant:
He's a fast learner. Look at that.

[00:24:34] Simon Sinek:
What I see, I can be taught. [Simon laughs] See how quick that answer was?

[00:24:37] Adam Grant:
That was impressive.

[00:24:38] Brené Brown:
I would say dig into the exhaustion.

[00:24:41] Adam Grant:

[00:24:43] Brené Brown:
What's driving the exhaustion? A lot of times what we find under the exhaustion is loneliness, despair. Exhaustion is an easy thing to point to. And we gotta figure out what's the drain.

[00:24:59] Simon Sinek:
I think what we're starting to see is people feeling exhausted, people not feeling seen and heard, not feeling appreciated. You know, appreciation used to be walking down the hall and be like, Hey, by the way, amazing job. Love what you're doing. And then you go on to your office. And now because we're virtual and we're distributed, I only see the product that you produce. And I only call, you, text you when something's wrong. And so people aren't feeling appreciated for all the good work they're doing, which is very difficult to do without a lot of effort on a regular basis, distributed on a distributed workforce. And I think the loneliness of not being on a team and not being around people is, is starting to show up.

[00:25:38] Adam Grant:
Brené, when you say dig into the exhaustion, figuring out what's causing it is really important. We know that one of the causes of exhaustion is leader self-sacrifice, taking ideas about servant leadership--

[00:25:50] Brené Brown:

[00:25:50] Adam Grant:
--and empathy too far. And there's a question about that from Kate who said, how do we support our own needs while we're trying to serve others?

[00:25:59] Brené Brown:
As someone who studies empathy and has for a couple decades, let me just say: You don't take empathy too far once it reaches a certain point, it no longer is empathy by definition. And so it's enmeshment, it's caretaking, it's a lot of other things, but it's not empathy. You can't give what you don't have, so you gotta set boundaries and you gotta model boundaries. The most transformational leaders that I work with, Have very clear boundaries and respect people when they set them and encourage them, applaud them, and appreciate them. I would dig into, again, it's cuz it's me. Why are you taking care of other folks' shit? I mean, is that where you think you add value or do you think you don't have value when you don't do that? Do you think that's your job? Do you need to redefine what that means? What is that about? And if that's a pattern that's at home and work? That's an inside job.

[00:26:52] Simon Sinek:
Uh, there's a big difference between service and martyrdom and I think sometimes well-intentioned service-oriented people confuse the two.

[00:27:00] Brené Brown:
Anne Lamott has this great quote that help is the sunny side of control. Sometimes when I'm helping and the most exhausted, I'm really trying to control things and often I see myself and other leaders do this when we are pushing down responsibility and trying to hold onto authority, and that is a very dangerous misalignment. But I often am very tired when I'm trying to help everybody, which is code for, I'm trying to really control and oversee everything. So there's a lot of examination that you have to do, I think as a leader about, again, the exhaustion and helping and servant leadership, weaponized is super dangerous.

[00:27:50] Adam Grant:
One of the great benefits of helping others and serving others and I guess trying to lead, like I would expect a giver not a taker to to is that you gain tremendous efficacy, right? From feeling like you have value to add to others, but that can become a drug. And there's all this research on pathological altruism and unmitigated communion that shows that actually the, the people who become white knights and the martyrs that Simon is talking about are very often people who have either low or unstable self-esteem. They're insecure. Yeah. And they're looking to prove their worth and validate it, which comes from other people's approval. And Brené, I'm wondering, as you talk, how much of that also comes from a desire for control that the best antidote to helplessness is helpfulness? For me. Only if I take that too far and now I am telling people my way as opposed to trying to guide them to find the best way, I'm no longer actually helping them.

[00:28:55] Brené Brown:
Yeah, and that's really hard. That goes back to Simon. The core of Simon's work, which is leadership, is teamwork, trust, and I would say there are probably people listening that are exhausted, pushed to the edge, and they couldn't do any more self-reflection and any better work for themselves. They're trying to keep jobs under a really terrible leader. And that's real too. I just wanna make sure we're not saying all of this. You need to do some self work around, because there is a reality for some people that the expectations are just unrealistic right now. Look, I have mixed feelings about the hybrid stuff. I think we have data now that just, especially if you're a primary caregiver, God, I mean, the wheels are coming off for a lot of people. And it's real. So I think you have to understand, is this about me? Is this about someone else? Is this about expectations? What's the source? What's driving the overwork?

[00:29:53] Adam Grant:
Let's, let's go to, related to that.

[00:29:55] Simon Sinek:
Oh, I wanna talk about this for an hour. This is so good.

[00:29:58] Adam Grant:
I do too!

[00:29:59] Simon Sinek:
Sorry, Adam. This is your podcast, as you were saying.

[00:30:02] Adam Grant:
Oh, you're trying to cede control here. I see what you're doing. You're making me lead again. Okay. I, I think Samantha raised a really powerful -- [Adam laughs] I like watching the two of you chuckle silently. It cracks me up. Um--

[00:30:14] Brené Brown:
--it, it's funny and you're so cute and we're just trying to give space for the next question.

[00:30:20] Adam Grant:
Not the answer I was looking for. Flattery will get you nowhere Brené Brown.

[00:30:23] Simon Sinek:
This whole thing is fun. That's what it is. The three, the three of us in a room together. It induces giggles and smirks and smiles and chuckles.

[00:30:33] Adam Grant:
Which I'll point out has never happened. We've never been in a room together, the three of us, a physical room.

[00:30:37] Simon Sinek:
Uh, is that true?

[00:30:38] Adam Grant:
It's true.

[00:30:39] Brené Brown:

[00:30:39] Adam Grant:
Oh, yes. Never. I do wanna go to this this really, I thought, powerful question that Samantha asked. She said, when should a leader step down?

[00:30:49] Simon Sinek:
I have great respect for leaders who are aware of their own Peter principles and their own capabilities. And they are very public to say, I had the skillset to take this organization from A to B, but I am not the person to take it to C, and it's time for me to go. That level of humility and recognizing to leave on a high before you destroy your own career, I'm always impressed by it.

[00:31:14] Brené Brown:
Yeah, I agree. Yeah. I think one clue is when the work becomes self-focused and not other focused, it's time for deep reflection.

[00:31:22] Adam Grant:
There's also, you know, if we're to flip the, the perspective a little bit here, there's a question Robert asked that I, I actually thought was fascinating, which is he says that he's seeing younger generations not interested in senior leadership roles, not wanting to deal with the pressure, the stress, the responsibility, the layoffs. He wants to know how do you grow leaders if they're not interested. I would add, how do we make leadership, a, more rewarding experience for people?

[00:31:52] Simon Sinek:
Our generation in part, in, in previous generations arguably were raised that a career is about advancing up the organization, and some of us did it begrudgingly because that was the path. That's what we're supposed to do. As we said before, you know, some people aren't interested in that. They want to work to live, not live to work, and they wanna make a decent living and they wanna be paid fairly and enjoy coming to work and enjoy their colleagues. But at the end of the day, they want work to subsidize their lives and they're being open about it. And, and they can be great contributors. And they can be great contributors. And I will tell you about the young people who don't want leadership roles. You know, rock on. Yeah. Good for you. I, I remember being a new faculty member and like my second year, someone saying, listen, we wanna send you to the high potential dean track meeting. Hell no. And I was like, what? And they're like, yeah. And I'm like, I'm not gonna wear a suit with a university lapel pen and spend, you know, 10 hours in meetings a day. And they're like, what's wrong? The lightning answer to this is rock on. And if they change their mind, that's fine too, by the way.

[00:33:02] Brené Brown:
Rock on and build leadership in your companies that's more representative, more inclusive, more human-centered, you know? And then, then when that's done, let me know if people are interested or not interested.

[00:33:15] Adam Grant:
All right. Brené, Anna wants to know if the word leadership did not exist, what alternative word would you use?

[00:33:24] Brené Brown:

[00:33:26] Adam Grant:

[00:33:28] Simon Sinek:
Okay. Me? Me. My turn. Oh, I would say parent.

[00:33:31] Brené Brown:
Oh God. I -- I would just come right through the screen and just, well, give you a hug and then--

[00:33:38] Adam Grant:
-- [Laughter] Horrible answer, Simon. That's I think the worst answer I've ever heard you give.

[00:33:41] Brené Brown:
Simon fails like [Brené makes buzzer noise]. No, no. We don't want parents at work. We do not want paternalistic leadership and we don't want "families."

[00:33:51] Adam Grant:
Simon's talking about a good parent but yeah--

[00:33:52] Brené Brown:
--we don't want any.

[00:33:53] Adam Grant:
Yeah, I'm with you Brené.

[00:33:55] Brené Brown:
No, we don't want any parents at work. We don't want any family metaphors at work. We don't want any speak of any of that. [Simon laughs]

[00:34:03] Adam Grant:
I was gonna say coach or guide.

[00:34:04] Simon Sinek and Brené Brown:

[00:34:05] Adam Grant:
There it is.

[00:34:05] Brené Brown:

[00:34:06] Simon Sinek:

[00:34:06] Brené Brown:

[00:34:07] Adam Grant:
This is a, I'm gonna combine a Stacy and a Raymond question here, which I thought was really interesting. If you have a leader who is not necessarily making your life as good as it could be any tips on managing up and or getting your leader to be self-aware and open to feedback?

[00:34:25] Simon Sinek:
Being a leader doesn't mean having a position of authority, so be the leader you wish you had. If you were in their position and they were acting that way, you know, if they were your subordinate, what would you do? And then the skills of having a difficult conversation there are techniques which I won't go into because this is a lightning round on how to do that, [Laughter] but I think you have an effective confrontation is what you do. You have an effective confrontation. You express your feelings. Brené's better qualified to answer this question. The behavior they did to-- that produce those feelings and the, the potential impact of if things don't change.

[00:34:55] Adam Grant:
I, I had a leader once who was not open to feedback at all, and I was afraid to have the conversation, and then I decided to just lead with that. And I said, "Hey, like I, I have a couple of thoughts and I'm actually pretty nervous about sharing them with you." And I was so surprised at the response. The response was, why are you nervous? I want you to be able to tell me anything. And it was a leader who was very often self-focused. There was something about me showing my, my fear and anxiety. I guess I was being vulnerable, Brené that shifted.

[00:35:29] Brené Brown:
Yeah. Modeling the vulnerability.

[00:35:30] Adam Grant:
Yeah. But all, so I think the leader was more comfortable being vulnerable once I modeled it to your point, but also it shifted. The leader's focus from the usual insecurity, self threat. You know, what, what does this mean for my ego and image toward me? Like, how can I help Adam feel less anxious and how can I create an environment with blessed fear? What are your thoughts?

[00:35:51] Brené Brown:
Bravo, and I would say for the people asking the question, if there is something that this leader has done well, I would start there. Hey, Marcy, when I had lead on that project and you walked me through these things and then gave me this feedback, I just wanna say it was so helpful for me. The way we talked about what you were looking for, we got really clear on what done looked like. You gave me feedback at really critical moments. It worked. It would be very helpful if we could do more of that.

[00:36:24] Adam Grant:
I'd advise someone to do a version of that recently and to say, find the bright spot, right? And say, it's especially helpful for me when you do this. And the the leader came back and said, but that's not my style. And I just, I had such a strong reaction to that when I, when I heard the feedback, I was like, well, your style is to do whatever's effective, to bring out the best in the people around you. Why are you stuck to a rigid style? How would both of you respond to that? If you've got somebody who's anchored in a fixed view of, of this is how I lead.

[00:36:57] Simon Sinek:
Great leaders do not consider themselves experts in leadership. They consider themselves students in leadership, and they always know that there's room for growth. Part of the responsibility of a leader is to adjust so that you can be heard and be understood if, if that really is genuinely the case, they absolutely cannot adjust. I mean, I heard a guy in the extreme say, I'm an asshole, but that's just who I am. I'm like, well, just being aware of it doesn't excuse it, but if there are sometimes personality differences that do sometimes genuinely get in the way of effective leadership, and in those cases you go to somebody who's better qualified and you say, I need you to do this.

[00:37:30] Brené Brown:
And then this goes back to like one of the findings in our research, which was really interesting, that care for in connection with the people we lead is an irreducible prerequisite. And it was funny because it emerged right before I got to an Air Force base to do work with some squadron leaders, fighter pilots that had just been kind of given these leadership positions where they're in charge now of a lot of people and their families. And I remember telling the general, listen, this emerged and I'm gonna share it with them. And I know this is a tough group of folks. And he said care for and connection with minimum for the people you lead.

And I said, yes. And he said, that's way below our bar. And I said, what do you mean? And he said, in the Air Force we talk about deep affection for people that we lead. That's how we save lives. And so I've had people with whom I could not develop a deep affection care for or connection with after some rumbling and a lot of shitty talk in my head.
[00:38:29] Brené Brown: I consider that kind of just to be human. It doesn't help for me to say, wow, that's a leadership failure. It's just human. And the good leader thing to do is to say, I value your contributions and this is who you report up to. Now I think you can get more support and more of what you need.

[00:38:43] Simon Sinek:
Yes to all those things.

[00:38:45] Brené Brown:
Beautifully put. If you don't care for the people you lead and you're not connected with them. None of this works.

[00:38:53] Adam Grant:
Well, normally after I'm done with a conversation, I record a quick takeaway on what I'm left with. But you just did that for me. You just summarized the conversation and synthesized the key insights. So I have less work to do now. Thank you both.

[00:39:09] Simon Sinek:
Teamwork makes the dream work.

[00:39:11] Brené Brown:
That's what I was gonna say it's, it's the team.

[00:39:16] Adam Grant:
ReThinking is hosted by me, Adam Grant, and produced by TED with Cosmic Standard. Our team includes Colin Helms, Eliza Smith, Jacob Winik, Aja Simpson, Samiah Adams, Michelle Quint, BanBan Cheng, Hannah Kingsley-Ma, Julia Dickerson, and Whitney Pennington Rodgers. This episode was produced and mixed by Cosmic Standard. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin. Original music by Hansdale Hsu and Allison Leyton-Brown.

[00:39:43] Adam Grant:
We pretty soon we're all gonna have the same podcast.

[00:39:45] Simon Sinek:
It doesn't matter cuz we have different points of view and we even talk about the same companies. And don't worry who then who I think you said people love us.

[00:39:53] Adam Grant:
No I didn't!

[00:39:55] Brené Brown:
People love me. They tolerate y'all cuz you're with me.

[00:39:57] Adam Grant:
That's true. It's the first time Brené I've ever heard you sound self-assured to the point of male confidence narcissism.

[00:40:06] Brené Brown:
How dare you.

[00:40:08] Adam Grant:
Is that an insult or a compliment?

[00:40:10] Brené Brown:
This is female confidence. I can back it up.

[00:40:11] Adam Grant:
Damn right. I love it. So what do you say? We do this again in a few months.

[00:40:18] Brené Brown:
My turn's next.

[00:40:19] Simon Sinek:
Yeah. In the rotation. Yep. I love you both.

[00:40:21] Adam Grant:
I still don't love you, but I really like you, Simon.

[00:40:23] Brené Brown:

[00:40:24] Adam Grant:
I love Brené. I like Simon.

[00:40:27] Brené Brown:
I think you're both weirdos. Bye!