TED Talk Legend Simon Sinek Has 5 Pieces of Advice for Hospitality Pros

The author is behind the third most-watched TED Talk of all time.

Welcome Conference 2019
Photo: Welcome Conference

At the 2019 Welcome Conference, hosts Will Guidara, Anthony Rudolf, and Brian Canlis made a point of inviting speakers of all professional backgrounds, though the focus of the day was hospitality. Simon Sinek, the author behind the third most-watched TED Talk of all time ("How Great Leaders Inspire Action"), was one such speaker. While he didn't mention any personal experience working within the service, food, or beverage spaces, Sinek offered five tenants of effective leadership that have applications for hospitality professionals hoping to grow their businesses and inspire their employees. (Many of the points he makes first appeared in the TED Talk that turned him into motivational speaker royalty.)

Here are the five things you need to be an effective leader, according to Sinek.

1. Just cause

Good leaders need a "cause so just you’d willingly sacrifice to advance it." And, no, the cause can't be money.

2. Trusting teams

Sinek encourages leaders to cultivate a fear-free atmosphere where employees feel like they can be themselves. As he put it, leadership isn't "about being in charge—it’s about taking care of those in your charge.”

3. A worthy rival

There's nothing wrong with a little bit of competition. In fact, Sinek admitted to having a rival whose book rankings he checks compulsively. "If I'm ahead, I'm smug," he said. "If he's ahead, I'm angry." While this may sound petty, there are numerous benefits to having what Sinek calls a "worthy rival"—"A worthy rival reveals to us our own weaknesses," he said.

4. Existential flexibility

Here's how Sinek defined it: "The willingness to make a profound strategic shift because you find a better way to advance your cause." (And remember, the cause has to be just.)

5. The courage to lead

Of course, cultivating all these things requires a good deal of courage. It takes courage to shift your mindset from finite to infinite, as Sinek so often frames the issue.

"If we listen to so many leaders, they talk about being the best," he said, and that's a finite game. “In the infinite game, the only true competitor is yourself.”

The goal, then, is not to beat the competition, but rather to outlast them.

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