Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek discusses the qualities of real leadership. It also teaches how building a system with a safe environment helps the members of an organization to safeguard themselves from outside threats, and helps them in making deep connections with each other.
Leaders Eat Last Summary
Have you ever wondered how big organizations work with so many people at the same time, and that too while facing outside threats?
The thing is, they are able to do so because they have great leaders at the top of the hierarchies that manage people at the bottom.
Surely, it’s not a piece of cake.
The question here is:
What makes a leader great?
Well, in this book, Simon Sinek shines light on all the things a great leader must know to build connections with the people at work.
He also shows what leadership is, and what leadership is not.
Today, in this article, I’m going to share key insights or lessons that I’ve learned from this book.
Empathy is one of the most powerful tools in an organization
The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last
If you want to learn only one thing from this book, then remember this lesson:
Have empathy for your employees.
A great leader always tries to see things from the perspective of other people in his organization.
When you are the CEO of your company, you have many choices to make, some are profitable to you but not to your employees.
I’ll explain with an example:
Let’s say you have to increase revenue by the end of this month by taking on a big project but you have a limited workforce.
What would you do in that case?
Would you increase the workload of your employees?
Or hire more people?
There would be a plethora of choices for you.
But the question is, what a great leader would do in such a perplexing situation?
Well, a great leader knows that an organization can tackle any situation if it has a culture of sacrifice and service.
It doesn’t matter whether you get any attention or praise. It isn’t about how much profit/loss you go through either.
A great leader always helps his employees to advance along with the organization.
Regardless of how big the challenges are, when people feel that they are given priority and respect, they put in everything they have got to overcome them.
One who prioritizes others’ well-being over his is worthy to be a leader.
Your employees aren’t robots, treat them like people
You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last
What happens in most of the organizations is, the people at the top of hierarchy treat the ones at the bottom of the hierarchy as mere metrics.
And what do they do with these metrics?
They use them as analytics and generate a massive amount of dollars.
It’s true that in real life, it’s necessary to go through analytics to beat the competition and track the progress within an organization.
But when the leader treats its followers like some numbers he could use to profit himself, he forgets about the empathy and well being of the very people who are the foundation of his organization.
When this happens, people stop pushing hard at their work.
They realize that their leader doesn’t value their effort.
Even simple work starts looking like torture to them.
Ultimately, the positive culture of empathy, growth, and well-being of all gets blown to smithereens.
So what’s the takeaway here?
Treat your employees as humans.
When you treat them like humans they get the feeling that the company trusts them.
They feel that their efforts aren’t going in vain.
The feeling that they are contributing to the advancement of the company, gives them the courage to push harder.
They naturally feel committed to their work and without any pressure, they put out their best work.
Trust and empathy in an organization go hand in hand.
Once you show empathy towards others, you begin to earn the trust of people within your company, which is another hard thing to earn in an organization.
Being a leader is like being a parent
Once the leader starts seeing his employees like a family the culture of the company shifts from ‘working’ to ‘caring.’
So, what does a good parent do?
He provides his children with all the things that are needed for his children’s well being.
A leader is very much like the sun.
The sun provides sunlight relentlessly to everyone on the ground.
Regardless of what the season is, it never stops giving sunlight.
While on the other side, people on the ground feel gratified and use sunlight to advance in their lives.
Similarly, a great leader selflessly provides its employees with all the resources they need.
And in return, the employees manage all the groundwork.
Both sides do what they must to reach the goals of the company.
This type of work environment encourages all the people who are part of the organization to contribute.
No matter where an employee is in the hierarchy he feels equally motivated and energetic to work.
They no longer work for themselves, they start working for each other.
In the best-case scenario, the workplace feels like a paradise where everyone is working towards a single goal.
When people get treated like a family, they start enjoying their job and engage more with the organization.
The circle of safety
The image below represents the circle of safety:
The crosses here represent “danger”. And the “circle” represents the environment of an organization.
Within this circle, there is a safe environment while outside the circle there are dangers and threats.
Every organization, whether big or small, is prone to outside threats.
These outside threats often lead to the downfall of the organization and shatter it to pieces.
What a true leader does to cope with outside threats is, he creates a safe environment within the organization.
A safe environment within an organization allows the employees to thrive and also helps in avoiding internal rivalries.
When the organization holds a strong bond with its employees, it becomes strong enough to face threats from outside.
Now imagine what would happen if the people within an organization start facing dangers from inside?
The whole culture would shatter and result in rivalries among each other.
And when this happens the organization becomes vulnerable to outside threats.
When attacked by both inside and outside threats, the leader, as well as its followers, suffer significant damage.
What does an ideal organization do?
It maintains its circle of safety and makes it so strong that no threat penetrates its shield.
It’s like a bulletproof jacket worn by a military man in a war.
The jacket protects him from all those fierce bullets in the circumstances where you never know when you’ll get hit by one.
When people are within this circle of safety, they feel safe and become relaxed.
And therefore, they focus more on pursuing their goals instead of fearing outside threats.
A true leader creates a system to make sure that this blanket of safety, trust, and cooperation fully covers its organization so that people feel safe and focus on their objectives.
This concept of creating a safe environment within an organization is not a fancy management theory.
It is all based on our biology and anthropology.
We’re built to work together
The ability of a group of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well those pull together as a team.Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last
It has been since ancient times that humans prefer to be a part of the community and work within that.
Hunters and gatherers worked together in groups to ensure their survival by gathering food supplies and other basic needs.
Our systems are built such that what we can’t do alone, we can achieve by working together.
For example, it was hard to hunt an animal for meat all by a single person.
But by working in group formations, hunters could easily gather food for an entire week.
Working together improved their efficiency and helped them survive.
They could work for themselves and the community to future proof themselves from threats.
Fortunately, in present times, we don’t need to explore the forests to hunt and find food for ourselves and our family.
We barely need to move at all, the necessities can easily be fulfilled.
Our basic necessities, today, have turned into endless desires of wealth, happiness, mindfulness, and so on.
Likewise, outside threats have also changed significantly.
Even though we have developed rapidly in recent centuries, our biology hasn’t changed that much.
When it comes to survival, we still perceive the outer world as a place of threats.
Earlier, we used to worry about wild animals and food supplies, now we worry about our careers and opportunities.
When it comes to an organization, we’re always surrounded by threats and a great leader ensures that people work together as a team and safeguard or prepare themselves for future threats.
The incentive system of Mother Nature
As you just read, our biology evolves to preserve our well-being.
To ensure our well-being, our Mother Nature has developed an incentive system that helps us survive and thrive, especially in harsh circumstances.
This is the only system responsible for instincts that urge us to take the best actions in our interests.
Whenever there is a threat our defenses go up, and when there is an opportunity it encourages repeat behaviors.
So what’s the point of knowing this? It’s common knowledge, isn’t it?
Well, a great leader understands what guides a person to take certain actions.
When you know about the fundamental systems that guide us, you become better equipped to understand other people.
And that’s how you progress towards great leadership.
To make it simple, understand that our lives revolve around these biological chemicals:
Your instincts, mood, feelings, etc, all are guided by the release of these chemicals in your body.
When you understand how these chemicals work, you gain better control over your actions and behaviors.
And therefore, you understand others better.
Reality is way different than ideal leadership
It feels good when we imagine an ideal leader who looks out for its people.
But in reality, most of the leaders are selfish people who only care about themselves.
It’s good to discuss what makes a great leader but it’s pointless because you won’t find many in real life.
In fact, these days people face threats from within the organization, there is no circle of safety at all.
The leaders, most of them, manipulate people and see them in abstraction.
To them, their employees are mere numbers that make them revenues.
Moreover, employees too feel frustrated at work and don’t feel that they contribute to the advancement of the organization.
Empathy and Humanity in businesses these days, look like a thing of the past.
The big corporations, today, are being run by smart executives, not by great leaders who can lead people.
No one wakes up in the morning to go to work with the hope that someone will manage us. We wake up in the morning to go to work with the hope that someone will lead us.Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmlller
The problems of this era: Abstraction and Dehumanization
Unlike the era when humans had few resources and knowledge, this era is filled with an abundance of everything you can think of.
Earlier, we had dangers surrounding us, now we have only a few.
Due to the availability of all the things in abundance, things have lost their value.
And the same has happened with humans.
As everything is scaling up, people are losing touch with human values like empathy, trust, honesty, etc.
We no longer see each other as humans, we are now business leads, customers, emails, Facebook profiles, Gmail accounts…
It won’t be wrong to say that humans are turning into virtual identities.
Due to the abstraction of people, we are tending more towards inhuman behavior.
Leaders Eat Last Review
This book taught me that true leadership comes at a price.
One can’t be a true leader unless he is willing to put his well-being over his people.
Many things written in this book point us towards an ideal world where leaders respect their people and help them grow, and at the same time, people do their best to meet the objectives of the organization.
But no matter how sweet it sounds, it isn’t always true.
I can’t say this for sure, but I believe, there is still big room for development in this regard.
As the book is named “Leaders Eat Last”, so what does this phrase mean exactly?
If you’re still confused about this, then let me tell you.
This means that great leaders give priority to their people before their self-interests.
Overall, this is one of the best books on leadership for those who wish to become a great leader someday and guide people towards prosperity.
I’m glad, you made it through!
Our world truly needs great leaders. I believe Simon Sinek wrote this book with the purpose of educating people and creating great leaders.
This article would certainly help others in becoming leaders they wish to see in the world.
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