Skip to main content

#Icon14 Post 2: Leadership = Putting Others First

In April, the Kahuna team took a trip to Phoenix for the Infusionsoft Conference, #icon14.

The amount of quality information was overwhelming and as a team we’re still working through all we gathered.

Because it’s so common to go to a great conference like that, get really excited, then promptly forget everything you just learned, I took furious notes throughout the event.

Now I’m going through my notes and writing what I learned to help myself internalize all the information. I’m hoping others will be able to benefit from it too.
It was truly a powerful and awesome conference.

Looking back at the conference and tallying all the keynote speeches and breakout sessions, I think I sat in on about 15 sessions in all for the conference. Of the 15, I’d say about 12 were top notch, providing lessons I hadn’t thought about before, and action steps I could take right away.

Of all the 15 sessions, though, the speaker who stood out on top of the rest was Simon Sinek who gave the keynote on the first morning of the conference.
Sinek’s powerful, inspiring message is also a reason I loved this conference so much. I often have a difficult time with inspiring speakers. Sure, they can be motivating and provide some new insights, but often the self-help messages of believing in yourself, and don’t fear failure and aspire for greatness just ring hollow.

You don’t get that with Sinek. His message about service, sacrifice and integrity is something that I can truly get excited about and that’s exactly what he delivered at Icon14. If you ever get the opportunity to see Sinek speak, you have to do it.

Putting Others First

He began by telling a gripping story of a military pilot who put his life in danger to provide security for his team.

When asked why he would have done such a brave thing, the pilot responded, “Because they would have done the same for me.”

This story illustrated Sinek’s ultimate point about leadership and teamwork.

“As individuals we are useless,” Sinek said, “In groups we can be remarkable.”

But to be remarkable, he pointed out there must be a culture of trust. There must be a safety to know the people on my team are looking out for me and what’s best for the team.

If it’s a bunch of individuals working together who all want different things for themselves, they are going nowhere, and unfortunately – Sinek pointed out – that is the story for a majority of businesses.


The key to creating the culture of trust and respect is starting at the top. It’s about leadership. If a leader sets the tone by looking out for himself first, and viewing his team as just a bunch of bodies who are around to move things forward, the culture of trust is dead.

The pilot who put his life on the line truly believed his men would have done the same for him. His heroic act was not just in this one moment. It came before by continually sacrificing and putting his team first.

Because he had done that, his team was “bought in” and would have done anything for him.

This is what leaders do.

“Leadership is about consistency. It’s a practice,” Sinek said. “You have to get in the habit of putting others before yourselves.”

Sinek broke down the biology involved in the chemicals in our bodies tied to happiness. He explained the causes that release endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

I don’t have nearly enough space here to do his talk justice, but the science shows endorphins and dopamine are tied to selfish desires – essentially the human instincts of getting what we want.


Seratonin is a chemical tied to leadership and confidence. It’s the reason we feel a stronger happiness and seeing someone we love succeed, like a parent to a child or a coach to a player, than we do when we achieve something ourselves.

A true leader chooses to sacrifice because it is worth it. It’s worth it to give someone the opportunity to succeed or fail, because when they succeed it feels so good.
“Leadership is not a rank. It’s a choice,” Sinek said, “The cost of leadership is self-interest.”

A true leader would rather get out of the way when credit comes toward the team, and rush in when danger or challenges come.

This reminded me of the great coach John Wooden, who any time his team won gave full credit to his players, and any time his team loss took full responsibility for himself.

That’s true leadership, and the chemical behind it is serotonin.


It’s all about the people.

Oxytocin is the chemical tied to love and relationships. Sinek was adamant about the importance of real relationships when it comes to a team and leadership.

True relationships come from an investment. They come from caring. They come from spending something of yourself for someone else.

Much more trust and credibility is built from spending time and energy with someone than simply money or an email.

“Time and energy builds trust and loyalty,” he said.

He said authencity and raw emotion are critical for building a culture of trust. It’s so easy within email to always put your best foot forward and edit until there is nothing wrong.

But when you are willing to go into the trenches with your team and truly get to know each other, that’s where real bonds are built and where a team would sacrifice for the sake of others.

“Trust and cooperation are a feeling,” Sinek said, “You can’t instruct them.”

And they are built by consistently investing in others and, day after day, putting others before yourself.

Leave a Reply