Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don’t lays the foundation for empathetic leadership. Sinek’s writing prowess and engaging stories emphasize a need for leaders to use their positions for service.
Before I begin my review, I need to provide context to the title. In the military (Sinek refers to the Marine Corps in his book, but the same concept applies to all branches), the chow line is an integral part of the day.
Marines lining up to receive their meals shouldn’t receive much attention. However, how they line up is worth emphasizing. Marines line up according to rank, with the most junior enlisted person going first to the most senior person going last.
The process happens naturally in the military because the officers and non-commissioned officers understand that they must take responsibility for their troops.
Now that you have context, I’ll review this book by providing a summary followed by some key takeaways.
Leaders Eat Last divides its 27 chapters into eight parts:
1: Our Need to Feel Safe
2: Powerful Forces
4: The Path We Chose
5: The Abstract Challenge
6: Challenges and Expectations
7: The Abyss
8: Becoming A Leader
Overall, Leaders Eat Last explains why leaders need to help their employees feel emotionally and physically safe at work.
Throughout the book, Leaders Eat Last highlights the tie between human needs and corporate demand. We have an innate desire to feel safe, as Sinek discusses. Moreover, that need comes from our ancestral past.
Next, Sinek takes us on a journey through the brain. Brain chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins shape the way we live our lives. Further, workplace safety depends on the brain chemicals within each employee.
And, the leader is responsible for creating a safe environment to allow for the correct brain chemicals to flow.
Organizations that rely on dopamine-based goals such as sales quotas, intense competition, and increasing profits stifle organizational unity and safety. Instead, these organizations do not provide an environment for successful employees.
The Golden Circle
Sinek alludes to the Golden Circle of safety. That Golden Circle is where the correct chemicals- oxytocin and serotonin- flow freely within its employees. He spends a lot of time setting up why these chemicals are the basis for organizational success.
Next, Sinek describes why we have leaders. Society has always had leaders that get the best of everything. In return, those same leaders must protect the community that they lead.
If not, those leaders lose trust from the same people they lead. Leaders must know when to break the rules for the betterment of society.
Later, Sinek talks about the Great Depression and the imbalance that needed to correct itself. He described the Roaring Twenties and unprecedented consumption. Interestingly enough, when society spends in excess, then the imbalance will eventually alter itself.
Toward the end of the book, Sinek described five critical leadership lessons:
1: so goes the culture, so goes the company.
2: So goes the leader, so goes the culture. I before you, me before we.
3: Integrity Matters.
4: Friends Matter.
5: Lead the people, not the numbers
The remainder of the book refers to the need for more leaders. Leaders must know that leaders are the problem. Sinek outlines the history of deaths from puerperal fever in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Only after doctors realized that they were the causes of puerperal fever in their patients did they begin to make changes to decrease those cases. Arguably, most leaders do not understand how much they impact an organization.
Several examples caught my attention. First, the Marine Corps was the foundation of the book. Immediately, I felt a personal connection to the message Sinek was about to portray.
The Army also practices the chow line ritual similar to the Marine Corps, and I learned that early in my Army career.
Second, his examples were relatable to the military and civilian organizations. Both lines of work require teams to accomplish goals. His Goldman Sachs case provided insight into the rise and fall of a culture and its effects on employees.
Third, leadership lesson three had the most impact on my understanding of the book. Integrity has always been my watchword in the military.
Finally, Sinek’s approach to leadership and brain chemicals was unique. Understanding how these brain chemicals worked provided an enlightening path for the rest of the book.
Sinek delivered his message very well. His understanding of history, leadership, and anatomy provided a whole-of-leadership approach to persistent issues within organizations.
I enjoyed this book. Sinek paints leadership in a new way through his links between brain chemicals and leadership. He reemphasized the Golden Circle and how leaders must protect their employees. This concept was fascinating, and his research was extensive.
I listened to the audiobook. However, I think that getting the hardcover would be a better experience.
If you choose the audiobook, Sinek narrates this one, and he does an excellent job. Even though the hard copy is a great experience, the audiobook version is outstanding as well.
If you want to buy the book, click here.
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comment section down below. Thanks for reading!