Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Don’t is a 2014 book by Simon Sinek. In it, he explores how some leaders are more successful when it comes to inspiring their teams and the effects of great leadership on company and organization advancement and development.
A 3 Minute Summary of the 15 Core Lessons
#1 Responsibility Comes with Caring
There are some leaders who are ostensibly responsible for the well-being of their company and employees, but they ultimately fail in this regard because they don’t care about the people they are supposed to lead. Real responsibility, argues Sinek, means caring about other people and allow yourself to get attached. Your workers will notice this and appreciate your loyalty and attention.
#2 Safety is Needed for Progress
One of the chief responsibilities of leaders is to provide safety for their workers and organization. This doesn’t necessarily mean daily or physical safety, but it means that leaders need to take the mental and physical well-being of their followers into account if they want those followers to work as best as they can. Your followers can do their best if they are worried about their paycheck, as an example.
#3 Help Your Employees Accomplish Real Things
Our brains’ dopamine centers have been hijacked over the last hundred years as technology has advanced. Now we feel accomplished from doing simple things like changing profile pictures or tweeting. Instead, it’s often more effective for a leader to assign his followers with real accomplishments or tasks that they can take true pride in.
#4 Good Leaders Provide Purpose
In addition to safety, great leaders should also inspire action in others by providing an appropriate purpose or cause. Only leaders that have real visions that can lead to true results and actual change for victory will be able to inspire their followers consistently.
#5 Visions and Goals are Different
Great leaders will need to become accustomed that creating and reaching both, but it helps to understand the big difference between these objectives. Goals are things that you can easily mark and you can see within arm’s reach, like a distance marker on a run. A vision is a more abstract thing that can become real in the future as you hit your goals. In a sense, goals are markers until the eventual ultimate vision.
#6 Personal Sacrifice is Necessary
The burden of being a good leader is heavy. It’s a lot like parenting in that it comes with personal sacrifice, which includes consistency and intensity even if you aren’t feeling up to the job on a given day. Sinek says that being a good leader means always being at the top of your game, such as maintaining your personal values and staying kind to your followers even if you are tired or frustrated.
#7 Trust is Necessary
Some leaders become managers just because they can’t trust others to do a good enough job on one task or another. But Sinek argues that this is only a way to disappointment and frustration. As an effective leader, you’ll need to learn to delegate and trust people to do their work effectively. If you’ve done your job as a teacher and inspirational manager well enough, your followers should do what they need to perfectly.
#8 Give Employees Autonomy
Related to the above takeaway, good leaders should give their employees autonomy within reason. Employees that feel like they are constantly over-managed and followers that feel that they can’t be trusted will never do the best work they can. They will subconsciously remain coddled and always look to you for assistance.
#9 Environment Should Reflect Excellence
It would be no surprise if your followers couldn’t do their best work if their environment was toxic on some level, be it physical or mental. A good leader should seek out and strive to create a healthy working space for their followers, which can be anything from an air-conditioned office to a healthy company culture.
#10 Think Big Picture
Whenever you’re practicing as a leader, your eye should be on the ultimate goal and the long-term effects of your actions and organization. Leave the short-term goals to lieutenants and your employees or workers. Always think of your next steps and progress in relation to the long-term potential of your endeavor.
#11 Don’t Follow the “Welch Way”
Sinek makes a special note of the GE leader Jack Welch, who practiced a toxic brand of short-term leadership. His profits constantly went up and down because of his irrational decision-making and he fired many of his managers to balance his financial books. This leadership style ultimately did not work out and resulted in a stressful experience for his followers.
#12 Don’t Leader Leapfrog
Sinek connects both the Welch story and the point about short-term thinking to warn leaders against the temptations of jumping from executive position to executive position. You should always take a leadership spot at an organization with the intention of being there for a long time. Focusing on boosting profits for your shareholders in the short term will ultimately end up in pain for many, and even yourself.
#13 Humans First, Numbers Second
This takeaway is especially important for those who work in sales, banking, and other number-heavy industries. A good leader in these spheres will not focus just on the bottom line numbers that their employees produce but also on the human element.
#14 Time is the Most Important Resource
Above all else, the greatest gift that you can give your followers is time. Giving them your undivided attention will not only boost your personal relationship with the employee in question but it will also allow you to keep a more accurate high on the actual workings of your company or organization. Make time for your employees and will make time for you.
#15 Control the Culture
Whether you’re on a Wall Street firm or if you run a small nonprofit, your job as the leader is to control a specific company culture that facilitates success and employee comfort. Don’t let the culture become toxic or aggressive or your followers may flee in droves.
Top 10 Quotes from Leaders Eat Last
- “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
- “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
- “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”
- “As the Zen Buddhist saying goes, how you do anything is how you do everything.”
- “Returning from work feeling inspired, safe, fulfilled and grateful is a natural human right to which we are all entitled and not a modern luxury that only a few lucky ones are able to find.”
- “And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.”
- “It is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.”
- “Let us all be the leaders we wish we had.”
- “Stress and anxiety at work have less to do with the work we do and more to do with weak management and leadership.”
- “Children are better off having a parent who works into the night in a job they love than a parent who works shorter hours but comes home unhappy.”
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Simon Discusses Meaning of “Leaders Eat Last”
The Famous Simon Sinek Ted Talk
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