Leaders Eat Last is a great leadership read that focuses on leaders creating a Circle of Safety to positively influence success by caring for members of the team so that they can work together to provide protection from outside influences.
The book starts off with a description of a fighter pilot, acting on a hunch, to protect his troops below, risking his own safety to look out for his team. This example reinforces the importance of prioritizing the well being of the team – while not all teams would have life and death situations, loyalty is fostered when the team looks out for each other. Sinek stresses the importance of listening, telling the truth, trust, empathy and treating every member of the team the same regardless of whether they were management or front line staff.
“When trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result”
Sinek talks about the Circle of Safety and how leaders can encourage trust and cooperation within the team to build a stronghold against pressures from outside that are beyond the organization’s control. With a strong Circle of Safety, self-preservation is unnecessary and members trust that the organization will look after them.
“Trust is like lubrication. It reduces friction and creates conditions much more conducive to performance”
Sinek shares that humans are “at our best when we face danger together” meaning that working together as a unified team leads to success. As humans, Sinek shares the biology of chemicals that cause humans to react including endorphins (survival), dopamine (satisfaction of getting things done), serotonin (pride, confidence and strength) and oxytocin (friendship, love and trust).
“The responsibility of leaders is to teach their people the rules, train them to gain competency and build their confidence. At that point, leadership must step back and trust that their people know what they are doing and will do what needs to be done.”
The book describes the era of consumerism and disposability. Sinek defines how organizations began laying off employees as a tool to increase profitability at the expense of the team. Sinek tells how political parties would once work together behind the scenes, even socializing to lead to positive results. He compared this camaraderie to the politics of today when politicians prioritize themselves and their parties. He described how companies look at situations in terms of numbers, not thinking that each number may represent a person with a family who is impacted by decisions. As the metrics become the focus, there is less focus on the individual and the team.
“When a leader is able to personally know everyone in the group, the responsibility for their care becomes personal”
Sinek composed a number of leadership lessons:
- So Goes the Culture, So Goes the Company –reinforces the importance of treating individuals well and that “it is leaders who decide what kind of environment they will build”. This section tells a great story about the culture of sharing and working together at 3M which led to the collaboration and invention of the post-it note.
- So Goes the Leader, So Goes the Culture – Leaders inspire the team and see changes as challenges. The leader “takes responsibility for he success of each member of the crew” and “gives them responsibility and holds them accountable” empowering them to make decisions. “The leader sets the tone.”
- Integrity Matters – “leadership comes from telling us not what we want to hear, but rather what we need to hear. To be a true leader, to engender deep trust and loyalty, starts with telling the truth”. This trust and leaders who walk the talk sets the tone for the team and creates a team that wants to follow the leader.
- Friends Matter – friendship, working together towards a common purpose and a trusting relationship help the team work towards the vision and allow leaders to know their team, focus on their needs rather than self service.
- Lead the People, Not the Numbers – “instead of trying to command-and-control everything, the leaders devote all their energy to training, building and protecting their people – to managing the Circle of Safety – so that the people can command and control any situation themselves.”
Leaders Eat Last is an inspiring read that makes the reader understand how important a team can be when they collaborate, support each other, care for each other and stand strong together against outside threats. For those of us living in Ontario, it is interesting to think of the principles that Sinek shares when considering the events leading to the June election. Are these leaders looking out for the good of Ontarians? Are they considering gaining our trust, caring for individuals and setting a positive tone?
“if your action inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”