Title: Leaders Eat Last
Author: Simon Sinek
Page Count: 244
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Category/Genre: Non Fiction, Leadership, Business
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.13)
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.0)
The highly anticipated follow-up to Simon Sinek’s global bestseller Start with Why Simon Sinek is an optimist, a visionary thinker, and a leader of the cultural revolution of WHY. His second book is the natural extension of Start with Why, expanding his ideas at the organizational level. Determining a company’s WHY is crucial, but only the beginning. The next step is how do you get people on board with your WHY? How do you inspire deep trust and commitment to the company and one another? He cites the Marine Corps for having found a way to build a culture in which men and women are willing to risk their lives because they know others would do the same for them. It’s not brainwashing; it’s actually based on the biology of how and when people are naturally at their best. If businesses could adopt this supportive mentality, employees would be more motivated to take bigger risks, because they’d know their colleagues and company would back them up, no matter what. Drawing on powerful and inspiring stories, Sinek shows how to sustain an organization’s WHY while continually adding people to the mix.
I dove headfirst into this book because I am a very big fan of Sinek’s previous work “Start with Why” and have often found myself at the forefront of various teams and was curious about his take on why some teams worked and some don’t.
The basic and most prominent premise of the book is that Sinek believes teams work or don’t work thanks to the one leading. Ultimately it all boils down to the leader.
Sinek kept me engaged by using examples and anecdotes from the military, large corporations, history, and medicine ——supporting his ideas and beliefs about how to bring groups together.
Redefining a more obvious concept he calls “Circle of Safety”, Sinek illustrates how a culture created with trust, safety, connection, and commitment produces a team of people that are able to unite towards a common goal or usurp the challenge to be successful. Teams, where individuals feel threatened by their status or safety within the group or their position, will turn towards self-perseveration instead of working collectively towards the end product. Its a simple and seemingly common-sense notion, but often overlooked or minimized in its importance for teams to work out. By keeping the circle strong, everyone feels safe and is more effective and motivated as opposed to when they feel vulnerable. I was able to identify all too often my own examples to support this in relation to when the teams did and did not work. For me, this was perhaps the most valuable takeaway from the book.
Sinek continues to talk about how great leaders are made and not born. Leadership is just one of the many roles and through experience and knowledge vs. being an alpha personality, any person can assume a leadership position or nurture a successful team. It mostly is predicated on behaviors that cultivate empathy and trust.
However, he delves into broad theories that could be argued by those with much more knowledge or education in these areas. It feels slightly like he took some big leaps in making the connections or assumptions, approaching neurological theories about chemicals that control feeling and emotion to explain the best types of leadership and environments and linking them to our early ancestors. According to Sinek, high dopamine (self-serving behavior) and cortisol (stress or fear) in workplaces where workers do not feel safe can result in a breakdown of teamwork. Conversely, workplaces with high levels of oxytocin (a feel-good chemical that is produced when helping others) and high levels of empathy can bring teams together and help workers to function at their highest levels. While he does use this science to discuss how individual physiology contributes to our own satisfaction and interactions with others, I think there might be more cause and effect correlations, and ‘which came first – the chicken or the egg’ factors that might come into play here. It also doesn’t take into account that some people have various chemical imbalances or take medications that affect the production of certain chemicals and might not be as much of a factor or dependent on the environment or the leader. I think the lack of nuance here or addressing various complexities in social, cultural or mental health left a gaping hole in his theories. It bases things on only a simple and perfect world, often filled with overgeneralization.
He did pair his theories with interesting case studies explaining how these chemicals lead to good and bad decisions for leaders which at least gave the data and scientific backing on how behavior and mental health are connected.
Much of the book and ideas contained within aren’t necessarily new, but Sinek was able to give them life with new perspective and words to crystallize the waters that get clouded when negativity or failure starts to taint the pond.
The book didn’t blow me away but I’d still strongly recommend it to anyone that is in a leadership position over a team or has struggled in the past to grasp why a team did or didn’t work out. There is also a brief TED Talk delivered by Simon Sinek himself. Here: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_…