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Simon Sinek: Leaders, You Are Playing an Infinite Game

Simon Sinek GLS18

Are you playing a game you can’t win? Author Simon Sinek told #GLS18 that’s what many of them are doing with their leadership styles.

Drawing from James Carse’s book Finite and Infinite Games, Sinek said, in business, “there’s no such thing as winning. There’s only ahead and behind.”

Carse wrote that finite games have known players, agreed upon rules and they end. Infinite games have some known and some unknown players, rules govern the game but the game continues forever. Finite games focus on the final score. Infinite games are dictated by deep philosophical questions.

“Finite players can never win an infinite game,” Sinek warned. “When organizations operate to beat a competitor, they are playing a game they cannot win.”

That’s because the goal of any organization, whether it’s a business or a ministry, should be in providing a service or meeting a need. Those are philosophical, not bottom-line concerns.

He told GLS18 attendees there are five things they need to win an infinite game.

1) A just cause

Those who work for organizations with a just cause are willing to sacrifice to further the cause. They’ll work late, shun better offers and forego family time to further the mission.

The just cause of a church or ministry is easy to define, but for other types of organizations Sinek offered some characteristics of a just cause.  

  • Resilient (can overcome changes in technology, society)
  • Inclusive (everyone contributes to the vision)
  • Service oriented (the primary benefit has to go to someone other than the contributor)

2) Trusting teams

The team members believe they can work at their natural best. They can ask for help or admit a mistake without fear of reprisal. In fact, such admissions in an organization with trusting teams will bring “leaders running to their aid,” Sinek said.

Sinek pointed out the opposite is true of organizations that lack trust. The team member won’t admit mistakes and will hoard information out of fear and self preservation.  

They are preoccupied with self, not the company.

3) Worthy rival