Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together, and Others Don’t is a striking example of how leaders should take care of their own. 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. Soldiers lining up to receive their meals shouldn’t be a big deal. However, how they line up is the critical part. Soldiers 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, what I liked, and what I didn’t like.
Sinek takes us on a journey through the brain. Brain chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins shape the way we live our lives. Dependency on the wrong chemicals can spell disaster for individuals and companies. Organizations that rely on dopamine-based goals such as sales quotas, intense competition, and increasing profits stifle organizational unity. Instead, these organizations do not provide an environment for successful employees.
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. For this summary, I’ll summarize by saying when employees feel safe within the company; then they’ll perform well for their boss.
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:
Leadership Lesson 1: so goes the culture, so goes the company.
Leadership Lesson 2: So goes the leader, so goes the culture. I before you, me before we.
Leadership Lesson 3: Integrity Matters.
Leadership Lesson 4: Friends Matter.
Leadership lesson 5: LEad the people, not the numbers
The balance 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 the18th 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.
What I liked
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 this 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 because those with it progress, and those without it, fail. Finally, Sinek’s approach to leadership and brain chemicals was unique. Usually, the mantra for leadership is macro rather than hyper-focused. Understanding how these brain chemicals worked provided an enlightening path for the rest of the book.
The tone is always essential for me. When I approach a book, I want to learn something. Although prideful, I open a book and say, “tell me something I don’t know.” Sinek did not underdeliver. His understanding of history, leadership, and anatomy provided a whole-of-leadership approach to festering issues within organizations.
What I didn’t like
Although I enjoyed Sinek’s explanation of chemicals, it was a little much for me. He belabors the differences between the four chemicals for a couple of chapters. Sinek even talks about cortisol’s effects on the brain as well, and that was when I wanted to move on. I felt like it was adequate only to explain the chemicals and the effects on the body. Despite this critique, I felt like he wrapped chemicals and leadership together very well.
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. He is engaging and energetic for the entire book. Even though the hard copy is a great experience, the audiobook version is outstanding as well.
Overall, I give this book a 9/10. My only reservation was the critique from earlier. I felt like Sinek spent too much time addressing chemical dependencies.
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Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comment section down below. Thanks for reading!