Leaders Eat Last

Leaders Eat Last

by Simon Sinek

Humans are naturally social creatures, and we are happiest when part of a community. This extends to our career too - we all want to feel valued and recognized at work. Leaders Eat Last examines the role leadership plays in an organization’s successes and failures. It offers evidence-based guidelines on how to be a good leader and overcome the obstacles faced.

Summary Notes

Creating A Strong Company Culture

“Leaders provide cover from above and the people on the ground look out for each other.”

The secret to success for any organization is empathy. When you work in an organization that treats you like a human being to be protected rather than a resource to be exploited, you’ll naturally feel fulfilled and happy. To achieve stable, lasting success, it’s critical to create an environment where employees feel valued and prioritized over the company’s profits. This drives their motivation to perform their best. 

Poor leadership results in a mismanaged company culture. When employees do not have a strong culture to guide their decisions, they begin to think in favour of doing the thing that’s right for them, instead of the right thing overall. With everyone pursuing different goals and looking out for themselves, the workplace culture will slowly start to become toxic. Most of the time, an unhealthy workplace culture creeps up on you. Small things, like office politics, opportunism, etc, build up before we realize it. 

Over time, however, this causes more cortisol, the stress hormone, to be produced by our bodies. Too much cortisol impacts our physical health too - we enter a “fight or flight” state and our immune system shuts down, our blood pressure increases, and we become more aggressive. 

People are happier to work at places with a healthy, positive culture. They’re more likely to stay loyal, even when offered a higher-paying job. Ultimately, people would rather stay in a place that they are valued, where they can grow and feel like a part of something bigger than themselves.

Actions to take

Leading by Example

“Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth. That’s it. No complicated formula.”

All organizations experience threats, whether the fluctuating stock market, newer technologies making theirs obsolete, competitors gaining more of an edge, etc. For employees to focus on effectively combating these external dangers, they must have time and energy for their work. This means that they cannot be distracted by internal threats such as a toxic workplace. 

The primary role of leadership is to protect employees - even from each other. A good leader creates a safe community where everyone feels like they belong. Then, the only threats are external, and the team will naturally band together to fight them. 

Ultimately, leaders need to step back and trust that their team knows what needs to be done. Good leaders teach their people their rules and train them so that they build confidence and can execute their best work. 

There are three key ways a leader can inspire trust in their employees:

  1. They are honest and transparent

  2. They do not resort to layoffs during difficult times

  3. They do not incentivize employees to compete with each other

Empower your employees and they will be more proactive about and invested in their work. Leaders who simply bark orders are training their team to blindly follow without thinking. Instead, focus on communicating direction and intent, and trust that people will do the responsible thing. Remember, employees who think for themselves and collaborate with each other produce innovative results.

Actions to take

The Importance of Community

“Leadership, true leadership, is not the bastion of those who sit at the top. It is the responsibility of anyone who belongs to the group.”

When resources are scarce and we are facing difficult times, it’s only natural to band together to increase our chances of success. However, as our success grows, we may fall prey to greed. Over time, this greed causes us to stop looking out for others, and only for ourselves. 

Part of this can be attributed to the fact that organizations tend to be extremely large nowadays. While a marker of success, it has also increased the physical distance between employees as well as customers. As “people” become more of an abstract concept instead of humans we see and hear every day, we start aggressively pursuing metrics to increase our profits instead. 

Social media plays a role in our drift away from humanity too. As we move towards more virtual relationships, we lose the human touch that makes them special. Although we may tell ourselves that social media fulfils our need for socialization, the truth is, we are lonelier and more isolated as a result of it.

Actions to take

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