Hello dear readers, I am Parul, and welcome to my blog where I bring you reviews on exemplary books. Like promised, today I have an awesome book for you that has drawn my attention from quite some time. Book is called “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek.
Simon Sinek is a prolific author, visionary thinker, and leader for bringing a revolution in culture. I am a fan of Simon’s work, after reading his first book “Start with Why” which inspired me to take action. This feeling of being in awe only escalated after watching his Ted Talk he gave a number of years ago. Simon’s talk is one of the most-watched Ted Talk in the history of Ted Talks and in fact showed in many marketing classes in MBA. He is certainly one of the leaders of the next generation and with his latest book – “Leaders Eat Last” he just takes it to the next level. It is definitely a thought-provoking book that leaders of every organisation should pick up. In fact, if you aren’t in the leadership position but you aspire to become one then this pick is for you! It can help you comprehend the changing dynamics in leadership, provide you with insights from leaders who have walked the talk during their reign as well as offers some of the best practices with a fresh perspective.
As my daughter gazes at the cover of the book, I wonder why Simon has linked leadership with their eating habits! Well, for what it’s worth, the book does have a catchy connotation to it!
Simon opens the book with exemplary leadership emulated in different defense services making military so great. Pondering on the eternal question how does Marine Corps perform extremely well. With his conversation with the General Manager, he was able to understand the secret sauce making military so different from others. “Leaders Eat Last”, answers the General Manager! Being a Fuji brat, I have seen my dad keeping himself at last in his list and thinking about his unit first. Essentially, Simon highlights why leadership exhibited in the military is fundamentally different. This is because it is based on uplifting the unit, helping members in the team to gain which ultimately makes the team gain, explaining the reason why some team pulls together while others don’t! One of the lines from the book that stuck by and I would like to quote here is “Those who work hardest to help others succeed will be seen by the group as a leader, or alpha of the group. The one who is strong and supportive in the group. A leader is the one who is willing to sacrifice time and energy so that others in her/his team gains. This is a prerequisite for leadership”. Simon comes from the school of thought where he strongly believes in the notion that leadership doesn’t come from position or title rather it comes from one’s actions!
In the interest of time, I have covered the book into the three major insights that I can draw from the book. These insights essentially explain the secret sauce of what makes few leaders Great! Indeed, these three insights are a keeper for anyone who wants to become an effective leader or like me, want to develop a strong organisational culture that helps businesses not only survive the test of time but also thrive.
Insight Number 1- Cultivating circle of Safety
Let me explain this insight with an example!
A Lion used to prowl about in a field in which four oxen used to live. The lion had tried many times to attack the oxen. However, whenever the Lion came near oxen used to come together and turned their tails towards one another. In this structure whichever way the Lion used to approach, he used to fail. This is because, in whichever way the Lion tries to attack, he will be met by the horns of one of the oxen. The story changed after oxen fell in conflict and quarreled among themselves resulting in parting ways where each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. This gave the lion the opportunity to attack the oxen without any challenge. And yes! Like you might have guessed already, this internal conflict led to the end of all four oxen. This analogy can be applied in organisations today. Simon strongly objects the culture that set up employees to compete against one another. Putting employees in a pit and asking them to compete against one another is a recipe to create a culture where employees always feel unsafe at work. They know that their fellow employees don’t have their back and won’t help with the best interest in their minds. This aspect is quite relevant in many organisations today and honestly, this carrot and stick model doesn’t work anymore. It might help in winning small games but doesn’t help in winning the championship. Simon Sinek professes the importance of culture in an organisation that makes their employees feel safe. Establishing an environment where people stop talking trash about each other rather than develop an atmosphere where people can trust one another. This can be developed through empathy, showing and understanding vulnerabilities, and collaborating with one another to emerge much stronger.
Insight Number 2 – Chemical that drives our behaviour to get us to do things!
This is one of the most interesting parts of the book since I never thought to link different hormones in our body as a catalyst in cultivating strong culture, better organisational dynamics as well as developing contemporary leadership. Essentially, there four hormones namely – Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin
Endorphins is the hormone that helps us to mask pain. Think about a time when you are in the middle of your crazy workout regime or when you are in the last stretch of the marathon, even though your muscles ache you are more focused on achieving the objective. This because performing a challenging workout regime or completing a marathon gives a different kind of high to us irrespective of the fact one may feel excruciating pain later. This is popularly known as Runner’s high! This is the hormone, which drives us to have ambition. We aspire to achieve great things in life and willing to go that extra mile even if the journey is difficult but end-objective is what matters!
Dopamine is the hormone that produces an intense feeling of satisfaction one gets once they achieve their targets or reach a milestone. You know that amazing feeling which we get when we cross things off our to-do list, that is because of the release of Dopamine. That is why it is important to write things, having a clear vision so that every step you take is a step towards achieving your goals.
Serotonin is the hormone, which stimulates the feeling of pride and significance. When you work hard and contribute to the group and your work is appreciated that releases serotonin. Primarily, it is the reason why we don’t give awards behind the closed doors or receive a college degree over the email. That feeling you get when dean calls your name and you walk across the stage with your cap and gown and the entire family and friends cheering for you. Yeah! That feeling which we call “priceless” is actually serotonin.
Last and my favourite hormone Oxytocin also called the love drug. It is the chemical responsible to make you feel great when you do good deeds for your loved ones and vice versa. This hormone also comes into action when you shake hands or hug. That is why it is always considered better to meet in-person instead of handling serious situations over the email or text.
We need to cultivate an environment where all these four hormones can flow and people can contribute to somebody else without expecting anything back in return. Essentially, the idea is to create a balance between all four chemicals such that leaders are able to establish a circle of safety all the way down to the employees at the forefront of handling the clients.
Insight Number 3 Difference between Short-Term Leadership and Long Term Leadership
Simon compares two of the world’s well-known leaders in order to explain the difference between the visions of their leadership. Firstly, he talks about Jack Welsh who had been the longest CEO of GE, one of the most profitable companies. The problem he pointed out is how you define profit or ways in which you derive the profit. If profit is generated at the cost of people then that is the first signal that the culture of the organisation is toxic. Jack was known for firing his bottom 10% in the bell-curve every year in order to show more profits to the shareholders. Well, this may work in the short-term, however, in a longer duration, this creates emotional distress at work as well as at home resulting in the breaking down of employees who have the potential to achieve better. As a leader, every decision you make whether big or small is critical and closely tied to performance.
In a longer run when you leaders put people before profit, organisation witnesses awesome results in terms of profits, creative insights driving products and service offerings as well as develop trust, collaboration, and engaged workforce who desire to contribute more. This can be learned from the leadership of Jim Sinegal Costco, former CEO of Costco. Simon Sinek compared the stock of GE and Costco in order to describe the steep and frequent fluctuations witnessed in working of GE while smooth and consistent rise in the graph of Costco.
A quick read, this book of only 200 pages is a keeper! An insightful book about social mindset, people’s behavior, and contemporary cultures. Simon Sinek beautifully blends human psychology with the biological mechanism of the body helping to comprehend how to drive actions.
Sinek, S. (2014). LEADERS EAT LAST: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. New York: PORTFOLIO/PENGUIN.
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