Book Review: Leaders Eat Last

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“Leaders are the ones willing to look out for the those to the left of them and those to the right of them.  They are often willing to sacrifice their own comfort for ours, even when they disagree with us.  Trust is not simply a matter of shared opinions.  Trust is a biological reaction to the belief that someone has our well-being at heart.  Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us.  Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate.  When it matters, leaders chose to eat last.” Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last

I’ve been hearing a good bit about Simon Sinek lately…particularly in light of the fact that his TED talk is one of the most talked about pieces on innovation and leadership.  Sinek has committed himself to being a student of leadership.  He is an ethnographer by trade meaning that he studies cultural phenomena.  While Sinek doesn’t claim to be a Christian, it definitely would behoove a Christian leader to read Sinek’s work in an effort to understand the cultural phenomena that he is studying.

Sinek’s latest work is Leaders Eat Last A lot of his research is centered around what he learned from spending time around the Marines.  He took the principles that he learned about leadership and teamwork and has applied them to several different areas of culture.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those items below…

 

  • Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown.  They rush toward the danger.  They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future.  Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours.  And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.  This is what it means to be a leader.  It means that they go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown.  And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers.
  • Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.
  • There is a pattern that exists in the organizations that achieve the greatest success, the ones that outmaneuver and outinnovate their competitors, the ones that command the greatest respect from inside and outside their organizations, the ones with the highest loyalty and lowest churn and the ability to weather nearly every storm or challenge.  These exceptional organizations all have cultures in which the leaders provide cover from above and the people on the ground look out for each other.  This is the reason they are willing to push hard and take the kinds of risks they do.  And the way any organization can achieve this is with empathy.
  • When the people have to manage dangers from inside the organization, the organization itself becomes less able to face the dangers from outside.
  • Every single employee as someone’s son or someone’s daughter.  Like a parent, the leader of a company is responsible for their precious lives.
  • When we feel like we belong to the group and trust the people with whom we work, we naturally cooperate to face outside challenges and threats.
  • The more we give of ourselves to see others succeed, the greater our value to the group and the more respect they offer us.
  • Raising children has many lessons for running a company.  Both require a balancing of short-term needs and long-term goals.
  • Compared to a culture in which the leaders incentivize reactionary decisions or activities that focus on immediate gratification, a culture in which the selfless chemicals can flow more freely results in greater organizational stability and better long-term performance.  And when that happens, our bonds grow stronger, our loyalties grow deeper and the organization gains longevity.  Best of all, we go home happier and live longer and happier as a result.
  • Leaders are the ones willing to look out for the those to the left of them and those to the right of them.  They are often willing to sacrifice their own comfort for ours, even when they disagree with us.  Trust is not simply a matter of shared opinions.  Trust is a biological reaction to the belief that someone has our well-being at heart.  Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us.  Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate.  When it matters, leaders chose to eat last.
  • The leaders of organizations who rise through the ranks not because they want it, but because the tribe keeps offering higher status out of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice, are the true leaders worthy of our trust and loyalty.
  • The responsibility of a leader is to provide cover from above for their people who are working below.  When the people feel that they have the control to do what’s right, even if it means sometimes breaking the rules, then they will more likely do the right thing.  Courage comes from above.  Our confidence to do what’s right is determined by how trusted we feel by our leaders.
  • Too many of the environments in which we work today frustrate our natural inclinations to trust and cooperate.
  • “No one wakes up in the morning to go to work with the hope that someone will manage us.  We wake up in the morning and go to work with the hope that someone will lead us.”  Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller
  • Anything that separates us from the impact our words and actions have on other people has the potential to lead us down a dangerous path.
  • When we opt to stay above the clouds, relying only on information fed to us instead of going down to see for ourselves, not only is it harder to make the right moral decisions, it makes it even harder to take responsibility when we fail to do so.
  • When a leader is able to personally know everyone in the group, the responsibility for their care becomes personal.  The leader starts to see those for whom they are responsible as if they were their own family.  Likewise, those in the group start to express ownership of their leader.
  • In a weak culture, we veer away from doing “the right thing” in favor of doing “the thing that’s right for me.”
  • Inside a Circle of Safety, when people trust and share their successes and failures, what they know and what they don’t know, the result is innovation.  It’s just natural.
  • In physics, the definition of power is the transfer of energy.  We measure the power of a lightbulb in watts.  The higher the wattage, the more electricity is transferred into light and heat and the more powerful the bulb.  Organizations and their leaders operate exactly the same way.  The more energy is transferred from the top of the organization to those who are actually doing the job, those who know more about what’s going on on a daily basis, the more powerful the organization and the more powerful the leader.
  • Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth.
  • Cooperation doesn’t mean agreement, it means working together to advance the greater good, to serve those who rely on our protection, not to rack up wins to serve the party or ourselves.
  • A leader’s legacy is only as strong as the foundation they leave behind that allows others to continue to advance the organization in their name.  Legacy is not the memory of better times when the old leader was there.  That’s not legacy, that’s nostalgia.
  • The performance of a company is closely tied to the personality and values of the person at the top.  And the personality and values of the person at the top set the tone of the culture.
  • Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.
  • In healthy organizations, as in a healthy society, the drive to win should not precede the desire to take care of the very people we claim to serve.
  • Without giving any significant amount of time or energy, a generation comfortable with abstraction has confused real commitment with symbolic gestures.
  • It is not the work we remember with fondness, but the camaraderies, how the group came together to get things done.
  • If the leaders of organizations give their people something to believe in, if they offer a people a challenge that outsizes their resources but not their intellect, the people will give everything they’ve got to solve the problem.
  • Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more.  And that’s the trouble.  Leadership takes work.  It takes time and energy.  The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate.  Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.

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