Leaders Eat Last [Book Summary]

Introduction 

Leaders Eat Last is a leadership book by Simon Sinek that explores strategies to create the right environment for organizations to excel.

Summary

Leadership Lessons 

The basic message of Leaders Eat Last is to create a circle of safety in your organization, so that an environment for high performance is created and sustained.

The author makes the case that there are 4 relevant chemicals in our body that either help or hinder high performance. They are:

  • Endorphins: Helps us push through difficult tasks (e.g. when you feel high after a hard workout)
  • Dopamine: Gives us a high from things we enjoy (e.g. cigarettes)
  • Serotonin: High we get when people praising us (e.g. your boss patting you on the back)
  • Oxytocin: The feeling of safety we get among peers we trust (e.g. when your team looks out for each other, allowing you to concentrate on the tasks at hand instead of spending energy on political maneuvering)

He calls the first two selfish chemicals which are internally generated. The last two he argues are the selfless ones – generated from the external environment instead of internally.

Sinek says that only by managing the release of these chemicals can high performance be achieved and the company’s goals achieved.

So the role of a leader is to instill a culture of hunger and humility. One where there’s trust among his team members that creates an environment of physiological safety and makes oxytocin flow freely!! The story goes that leaders were created for this very reason. When humans used to forage for food and bring it back to camp, the strong would push the weaker ones out of the way and have the food first – sometimes leaving the vulnerable, including women and children hungry.

So people came up with an innovative solution. They let the strong alpha males become the leaders and let them eat first. But in return, they had to ensure all members of the tribe were fed properly – whether strong or weak.

In the modern context, this means that the leader is given privileges not afforded to others because he’s expected to sacrifice the most, and ensure the well being of all his group members – and not the other way round.

Awesome Nuggets of Wisdom 

  • The problem of the modern day is that computers and abundance have made it so that we don’t have to interact with others if we don’t want to. So the oxytocin doesn’t have a chance to flow, hurting long term performance.
  • Kids are affected more by sad parent than absent parents. So don’t stay in bad jobs for your kids. It’s actually damaging them. If your job doesn’t give you psychological safety to give your best; leave.
  • The people at the top have all the authority and none of the information. The people at the bottom have all the information and none of the authority. Only by bridging the two are great firms built.
  • Leadership means you sacrifice the most when the time comes and look after those in your care. You are the scapegoats and saviors when s**t hits the fan.
  • The perks are meant for the position; not individuals who hold the positions.
  • Leaders should lead with humility and hunger. This will get the Oxytocin going, encourage people to go above and beyond the call of duty and in turn, build high performance teams.
  • Sinek challenges the reader to think from the perspective of the people under their lead being someone’s children. And you being in charge of  protecting and nurturing their hopes and dreams. This is a heavy responsibility to bear. And one that is expected from every leader by way of his position.

Best Quote

  • So goes the leader, so goes the culture. So goes the culture so go the people.

Video Summary 

Here’s something that gives you the meat of the book – straight from the horse’s mouth! Watch the video below to hear Sinek walk you through the logic of Leaders Eat Last.

 

Conclusion 

Leaders Eat Last has a simple message. Leaders should lead with hunger and humility. Putting the interests of the group before theirs; under a culture of oxytocin fueled trust that fosters positive sum thinking and team work. This is the ONLY way humans work long term – and hence, by extension, the only way companies and groups thrive long term.

Mohammad Kashif Choudhury

Kashif is a Business Analyst and Strategy Consultant trained in the art and science of breaking down problems, structuring solutions and implementing them. He works at the intersection of data and strategy across health, education and finance, striving to find ways to synergize technology and human effort to solve the biggest problems.

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