11 answers on The infinite game of leadership from Simon Sinek

11 answers on The infinite game of leadership from Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game is Simon Sinek’s last book. A definite game is one with a beginning, a middle point and an end and fixed rules. Something like football.

On the contrary, an infinite game is one with both known and unknown players and changeable rules. We are players in this game in life and we have learned to play it with the wrong mindset (be number one, which is valid for the fixed, definite games, while business and life are examples of infinite games).

I have not met Sinek Sinek yet, but I am sure one day I will, as somehow I have that piece of small luck that puts me in the right place at the right time and with the right people. Not always, but enough to be grateful and hopeful for more occasions!

One of my business classes addressing teenagers from British School of Bucharest is Leadership skills in time of a pandemic and Simon Sinek is a good source of information for the topic and the age group.

During his participation at Brand Minds LIVE 2020, he gave some answers when asked how to win in the infinite game of leadership during times of a pandemic (and uncertainty).

  • Leaders look at profit as a result, but it does not impress or motivate the people they are leading and by the way, in the covid era, you can easily spot the companies with strong culture.
  • We need PURPOSE (a cause) for the business - insists Simon - because sometimes we sacrifice for this cause, as we find meaning in our work. What is this purpose: your vision for the business? Are you able to see it in the future? This is ultimately a goal of constant improvement, our constant improvement. (eg Apple is constantly trying to oubeat itself, not Microsoft).
  • There is no such thing as beating the competition in the infinite game of ledership. Instead of competitors think of rivals (some are worthy of comparison), respect them and try to outperform yourself, not them.
  • Flexibility: this is important in infinite games (capacity to make a profound strategic shift in the organization in order to advance the cause). eg - Apple’s Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak strategy was to empower individuals to stand up to Big Brother, it had nothing to do with computers, but with a visit in the late 1979 to Xerox PARC by a group of Apple engineers and executives led by Steve Jobs. According to early reports, it was on this visit that Jobs discovered the mouse, windows, icons, and other technologies that had been developed at PARC. Steve observed the graphic user interface and came back to his engineers. One of his employees - the voice of reason - said “we already invested in something else, it will blow out our strategy” and Steve answered “Better blow out it ourselves than somebody else”! This is how Macintosh was created.
  • Voice of Reason:  usually someone scared of the unknown and the future
  • Reinventing business: it is usually a person’s problem who was used to do things in a certain way the whole life (eg Blockbuster - the video rental chain vs Netflix). In 1997, Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, forgot to return a rented VHS tape of the movie “Apollo 13” and was charged a $40 late fee. Hastings and Marc Randolf, who also happened to be co-workers, decided to revolutionize the movie-rental business and founded Netflix. One of the key features of their model was to eliminate late fees. Blockbuster’s board did not approve subscription because the company made 12% of revenue from late fees). Watch out where your equivalent obsession for 12% is!
  • What does it take to innovate? Small companies are not encumbered, they are not afraid. Big companies management is afraid to loose their status. eg. Kodak: democratised photography; invented the film and the color film; in 1975 Steven Sasson invented the digital camera (but the management did not approve it because it will cannibalise film). Conclusion: it will happen anyway! At the beginning, the digital revolution from others (Fuji, Nikon) was using patents from Kodak: they made billions out of patents, so they were happy with the revenue. What they were not able to see and hit them big was that after 5 years they filed for bankruptcy.


1. How do you keep a remote team together?

Best part is that it was proved that we can function remotely.

Still, it requires more work to build and maintain trust online. In a company TRUST is what happens between the meetings. Online it does not exist, so you need to have a weekly all staff perosnal meeting. Leadership should share the vision and be transparent with the staff.

2. If the leader shows vulnerability, will the team show also?

Do not show yourself always like the most optimistic and strong and so. The people will doubt themselves, they will think it is their fault they are not in that story with you. We bound better on weaknesses.

3. What is the biggest mistake a leader can make?

Thinking they have to have all the answers and if they do not, they have to pretend they do. 

They need to take care of the people who have the answers. Leadership is a very human job, this is why leaders eat last (reference to his book - Leaders Eat Last).

A CEO is not responsible for results, a CEO is responsible for its people, who are responsible for results. Bingo! The biggest problem is that we do not teach people how to lead when they become leaders (listening, empathy, give/receive feedback, difficult conversations, these are all skills of leadership)

4. How about building trust?

- show vulnerability/take care of people plus “the moment of truth”. A lot of small things is the key (keeping your teeth healthy is more about brushing them every day than just going to the dentist twice a year)

- somebody falls in love with you for all the small things you did

5. “Why” comes from the past (it is about origin, values, only one, defines who you are) - and it is different versus Just Cause (about future, vision, subjective perception)

6. What happens when you can not decide on your Why or Just cause?

This should be an active discovery, with the OBJECTIVE to find out who you are

- at your natural best, not something aspirational

- for the Just cause/vision - you do not need to/we are not all visionaires - you can join somebody else’s cause

7. Focus on yourself, not looking at others - what if we become irrelevant?

- look at others not with the mindset to beat them, just to improve yourself - you need a PACER (yes, I would add, if you are a long distance runner, you know how helpful a pacer is!)

- if you try to beat someone, you only get benefits on short term

8. What is the mindset in personal life as an infinite life game, where nobody wins?

- If you play with finite rules - I wanna be the richest, the most famous, etc, you might not win 

- If you play with infinite mindset then the right questions should be: How will I improve the life of others around me? Will I leave the organizations in a better shape than I found them? 

9. How Covid will impact the main generations in market? X, Millenials, Z

- no one really knows

- younger people - maybe they will wash hands more, be more socially responsible

10. Wthat is the generational difference?

- young people are more indefinite game fans

- the finite game was the mood of the 80s and 90s (shareholders supremacy, Q earnings rule)

- on short term boom generations will be defandants on their status quo/wealthy disparity/in the name of money

- young generation - grew up seeing their parents work hard, sometimes being laid off because of profit, not their fault, so they grew up not trusting companies. 

- 80% of people do not love their jobs; they are more open to daily business in a different way

11. One thing to do tomorrow - be open, become students of that mindset

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