Most Teaching On Leadership Misses This Important Point

Most Teaching On Leadership Misses This Important Point

When reading an article on LinkedIn about leadership, I realized that Simon Sinek was right...but not for the reasons leaders assume.

For a few years now, I've been trying to harmonize the various writings by authors whom I like.

For example, how do Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and Simon Sinek's Start With Why compliment each other?

In addition, how does Bruce Perry's The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Chad Hellman's Hope Rising add to Covey's, Cain's and Sinek's writings on leadership?

Oh! And Brené Brown's works! Is it possible they all fit together in a natural harmony or are they individual, disparate ideas?

The short answer is, in my opinion, yes! All those works do complement each other. And maybe one day soon I'll share more about that synergy.

However, the connection between how people become great leaders and how childhood trauma can get in the way is not often appreciated by leaders in most of today's organizations.

For example, in a LinkedIn article written by Gifford Thomas, the founder of Leadership First, and published on October 19, 2020, he said,

  • "Many people are promoted or recruited into a leadership position without understanding the fundamental philosophy of leadership: It's all about the people!"

My first thought was, "Really? People still don't understand that philosophy?"

My second thought was, "He is right. But the reason they don't understand that philosophy is they don't understand how childhood trauma affects people!"

I don't want to seem hypocritical because I have taught classes on leadership and I hope to keep doing so. But, let me ask you, how many leadership curriculums focusing on being a good leader do we really need?

Obviously, people don't share my opinion because each year countless books, magazines, and podcasts are produced to address this apparent vacuum. And many of them are good and generally helpful.

I don't know Mr. Thomas so I'm not throwing rocks at glass houses; he may very well talk about trauma in other articles or posts.

However, here are two examples of quotes recently posted on Leadership First:

  • "Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present and I have the power to make it so."
  • "Surround yourself with people who have dreams, desire and ambition; they'll help you push for and realize your own."

Those two quotes sound empowering and motivating. And for some people, perhaps they are. We do have a certain amount of power over the choices we make which affects the future.

However, if you grew up with adults who physically, emotionally, or sexually abused you; if you grew up in a dysfunctional household where a parent or sibling spent time in jail; or if you grew up being neglected to the point you had to rely on yourself for basic necessities (to include feeling loved), it's going to be near impossible to think the future is going to really be different. Furthermore, you are not going to have the ability to attain or help others attain big goals and dreams if your biggest dream is just to make it through the day!

Look, being an effective leader is hard work. Too many people don't appreciate that fact when they are recruited into leadership. I know I didn't appreciate it.

In fact, during my first leadership assignment I had an employee quit my team because of how I treated them. I would like to think it was more him than me, but, truthfully, it was more me.I knew leadership was about the people; I just didn't fully understand people.

Simon Sinek is often quoted by leaders. Thomas references Sinek in his article with this quote:

  • "Leaders must transition from being responsible for the job, to being responsible for the people who are responsible for the job."

True. We must be responsible to those who work for us. However, I believe that responsibility begins with another Sinek quote:

  • "People don't buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it."

While Sinek was focusing on the customer experience, effective leadership training 1) starts with why a person acts, reacts or responds in a certain way (i.e., understanding adverse childhood experiences); and 2) teaches leaders how to build relationships through doing the things that put people first.

When we understand why people do what they do, then people will then appreciate what leaders do when being responsible to the people.