Leaders Eat Last - Critical summary review - Simon Sinek

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Leaders Eat Last - critical summary review

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Management & Leadership

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 978-1591845324

Publisher: Portfolio

Critical summary review

Why do so few people say "I love my job!"? For many people, to like what you do is almost like winning the lottery. Few have a chance to be truly valued for their work and feel part of something bigger. That is because today's leaders do not understand how people seek purpose in their work. Ever wanted to become a leader and did not know where to start? If the answer is yes, the Leaders Eat Last book by Simon Sinek is a full plate for you (pardon the pun). In it, Sinek explores themes such as the origin of the hierarchy, its role in our contemporary society, and how to become a truly admired leader. Let's go together on this journey to understand what motivates people and create a better work environment? Stick with us!

Your BiologyAsks You To Lead Or Be Led

Our biology has evolved over thousands of years to help us survive. From our ancestors, our hormones control our emotions and our behavior. There are 4 main hormones you need to understand:

  • Endorphin: The hormone that masks pain;

  • Dopamine: The hormone that helps us accomplish things;

  • Serotonin: The Leadership Hormone;

  • Oxytocin: The love hormone;

Simon calls the first two (endorphin and dopamine) selfish hormones and the last two (serotonin and oxytocin) of altruistic hormones. An interesting example cited by Sinek is dopamine. It rewards us with intense happiness every time we complete a task. Are you happy when you clear your inbox? When do you complete a race? Yes, it's the dopamine effect. Other hormones, such as serotonin and oxytocin, affect our social lives, helping us to relate to others. But the endorphins disguise exhaustion and physical pain and can fool us mentally so that we can go further, even after significant physical efforts. Do you know when you finish an exercise feeling good, and the next day the whole body hurts? It did not hurt right away because of the released endorphin, which increased its performance. Endorphins have risen to help prehistoric man to hunt, even if tired, and thus bring food for his tribe. This same hormone makes you, in sports, go much further than you imagined you could. Hormone-driven behaviors have created the model of our social hierarchy. In the example of the prehistoric man, the individuals who brought more food to their tribes took the leading positions in the group. Weak individuals, the worst hunters, on the other hand, were relegated to supporting roles in the group. If hormones such as endorphin and dopamine have developed the most apt individuals to lead, hormones such as oxytocin are more present in the weaker. They naturally tend to have a deeper sense of respect, admiration, and devotion to leaders. Together, the four shape our behaviors. So selfish hormones help us accomplish things, and altruistic hormones help us relate and better collaborate with others.

Endorphin And Dopamine

If you understood the roles of hormones, you understood that these are the ones that bring progress and help us accomplish things. Fantastic, isn’t it? Not always. The problem is that leaders often operate in fear-based command methods, an old management model. Basing people's motivation on fear will likely bring bad results for the group, but it releases dopamine into the body of the "dictator leader." It makes him feel good at the expense of the followers. To make it worse, these hormones are highly addictive. Be careful!

Serotonin and Oxytocin

These are the chemicals that help us feel confident and part of a group. They help the group work synergistically and empathically. These benefits need to be used close to our people. You will not be able to have them hiding behind a computer or spreadsheets. You need to be there and be a part, always close to people. To put these hormones to work, you need to motivate and be present all the time. Are you leading? Your role is to create culture! Whether you lead a group of people or are the manager of a company, you need to develop your leadership. And to lead effectively, the most important thing you need to do is to define the culture and values of your organization clearly. Culture is the operating system through which decisions are made in groups and in companies. It is also essential to recruit and retain new members on the team, so it should be the leader's greatest concern.

Empathy, The Key To Leardership

To lead effectively, it is essential that you be able to care for your followers and want them to be always well. You have to have a sense of responsibility towards them. Our sense of responsibility comes from empathy, from our ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. Without empathy, we distance ourselves from our leaders and can make decisions that harm them, especially if we become our most abstract relationship. When this abstraction happens, we begin to prioritize our own interests to the detriment of others which can lead us to make decisions at their expense and thus hurt the culture of the organization. Being part of a group gives us a sense of security and the opportunity to evolve as people. In the same way, feeling alone and threatened ends up becoming selfish and makes us lose our empathy. The further we are from our own, the more we are prone to dehumanize people and see them as gears of a machine. It is always right to treat them as individuals who live, breathe, think and have their needs, never letting this mechanization occur. When people know that their leaders are concerned about protecting them, they can work harder and more focused, without worrying about external threats. Treat your employees with respect and dignity, and you will see results in every dimension of your life and your business.

Autonomy In The Work Environment

People need control and autonomy over their lives at work. In a survey conducted in 2011, 1 in 3 US employees considered leaving their jobs, a number that proves that many people remain in business just for reasons such as family support and insecurities about finding another job. You cannot let this happen in your company! That's why the work environment is everything. If it encourages and empowers people, they stay in their jobs not to survive, but to thrive. We do not have the power to change others, but we can change the environment where they are inserted. If we want those who are more engaged working with inspiration, we need to focus less on ourselves and more on creating the working environment that fosters this prosperity.

Are You Addicted?

While dopamine has been directly connected to our chances of survival in the past, today it is linked to the performance we demonstrate in our work environment, rewarding us when we are more efficient. If you are a leader who does not show up and shows the face to your team on a day to day basis to make decisions based exclusively on the short term, you may be addicted to dopamine. Many companies, seeking to improve their productivity, forget that long-term focus is essential to achieve their goals. To prevent us from getting into this type of sensation, we need to balance dopamine and its opposites. We can do this, for example, by volunteering or trying to be more physically present with our co-workers. Technology can isolate us from our leaders, but we can not succumb to it.

Create Ties

To be a good leader, the most important thing is to be able to bond with others. To lead, you need to develop a relationship of trust with people, so it is essential to develop your integrity. People need to make sure that you take into account their goals and challenges before making a decision. We know that leaders are human beings and do not expect perfection, but honesty and proactivity when addressing their mistakes and taking responsibility for them are essential. A sense of security is vital for the group to build a relationship based on honesty and trust. A leader then has the opportunity to set an example for others through their integrity. From the moment leaders achieve the trust of their followers, they must maintain it by building bonds. Whether it is with employees, customers, colleagues, or rivals, it is essential for a leader to have real connections with people so that he or she stays focused and honest in understanding their needs.

It's All About The Long Term

Leading for the long term is a win-win model. Short-term actions, while bringing immediate bonuses, tend not to solve problems. Often, CEOs do not stay in their companies for long and are not admired by their teams. Usually, this happens because they lead to their own interests and not to the interests of their followers. In the book, Simon Sinek uses an interesting model tracing an analysis between 2 different CEOs with different focuses at giant US companies:

  • Short-term leader: Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric

  • Long-term Leader: Jeff Sinegal, CEO of Costco

Sinek compares corporate profits and changes in their market value, linking them to decisions made by these leaders. Sinek believes GE made many mistakes in leadership, while Costco took the winning path.

  • GE: Focus on the short term: Profits at GE were like a roller coaster in the period under review, with huge variations. Every year, Jack Welch dismissed the 10% worst managers at GE to secure profits, but this style was like a roll of the dice where the lives of hundreds of employees at were stake. For Sinek, this is not an effective leadership but an example of a dopamine-addicted CEO.

  • Costco: Long-Term Focus: While Welch focused on putting fear in the minds of his managers, Jeff Sinegal was concerned and giving raises to his employees when the US economy was in a crisis. He always said that during the crisis it was time to focus more on the employees and not to fire them. Costco's actions were (and still are) stable and predictable. They show steady progress and prove that long-term focus is the way to effective (and profitable) leadership.

Eat Last, Ever!

A leader must create an inspiring vision of the future, to persuade a group of people to fulfill it. Although each member of the group has individual goals, as a whole he unites around a cohesive purpose, thanks to the leader's vision. However, it is crucial that the leader also put people as their priority number one. Many think that a leader exists to be served, but the great truth is that to lead, you have to serve people, help them achieve their goals, grow and overcome challenges. In times of crisis, a leader will use all his/her personal resources for the good of the community. In the US Marines, the oldest members are always the last to eat. There, leaders eat last. Once you can put your needs aside and focus on your team, they will recognize you as a genuine leader. Leading means guiding people in one direction, always giving purpose to the walk. Leaders must be the last in line, as in a pack of wolves, to ensure that each follower reaches the final destination safely.

Final Notes:

Great leaders understand that leadership is not instituted but recognized by its followers. It is not a statement but a collective belief that attributes leadership to someone. For that to happen, it is necessary to put people before their own personal desires and to be present, always focused on serving and helping them achieve their goals. The leader's vision is so important to determine how the company acts, which turns out to be essential to ensure that its leaders are a positive force. To be a true leader, focus on people in the long run, and always remember: leaders eat last to make sure his followers always eat first.

12min tip: How about checking out our microbook “Never Eat Alone” and learn the importance of making people more successful if you want to create lasting relationships?

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Who wrote the book?

Simon Sinek is a motivational speaker and author. He was born in Britain, lived in Johannesburg and Hong Kong, and settled in the United States. His academic background is in law and cultural anthropol... (Read more)

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