In this inspiring TED talk, Simon Sinek explores the biological imperative that makes us respond to true leaders. Sinek has done extensive research into our biological make up and the chemistry that triggers trust and cooperation in groups of people. Body chemistry triggers emotions and emotions cannot be coached, they are the automatic responses we have to situations.
In this other, longer, video he goes into more detail about the positive chemicals that make us feel happier, healthier and most important, safer and how they can be used to benefit businesses.
He explores how Homo sapiens survived in a very dangerous world: by working cooperatively in groups. These groups are not a dissimilar to businesses today. The danger is out there and we have to form cooperative societies to thrive. He points out that businesses nowadays often have this idea flipped: rewarding people who sacrifice others for self advancement, instead of rewarding those whose actions benefit the whole organisation.
The human body is a machine built to promote behaviors for survival and goes on to list the four chemicals he believes have the most influence on our survival and happiness and how they work.
The two selfish chemicals:
- Endorphins: the pain masking chemical that allows us to endure physically to achieve a goal.
- Dopamine: the satisfaction hit that we get when we complete a goal. He believes that we need to write down our goals to focus on them and give us that dopamine hit when we achieve them. He cautions against getting dopamine hits in physical form: gambling, substance addiction and greed also trigger dopamine, so this one come with a caution.
And then the two unselfish chemicals – that are needed to balance the two above:
- Serotonin: triggered when we feel pride in someone else as well as ourselves. Serotonin levels are higher in natural leaders. But being the leader comes at a cost – the leader runs towards the danger and looks after members of the tribe.
- Oxytocin: the social connection hormone that increases feeling of trust, love and safety. It is triggered by physical contact, acts of altruism and generosity. Connecting in a meaningful way with your team, family or friends is a sacrifice of time and energy that triggers this beneficial chemical. Oxytocin also boosts the immune system and makes us healthier.
How can the biology of leadership been applied in our organisations?
Investing energy in hiring for culture, ensuring that the circle of belonging extends throughout the organization and that we nurture a culture of trust and safety is a biological imperative which creates highly effective organizations. Organisations that put the happiness and emotional safety of their people first are the organisations that may have the most creative idea generators. Safety allows space for creativity.
As the end of the year and the most stressful time of the year looms, we feel that it’s time to look at things we can do to make ourselves and the world around us a happier place. In the next few posts we will be examining some of the things our team have been doing to JOLT themselves out of their comfort zones and make themselves and others happier.