Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek Book [Summary – Review]

Why is the reason why our society set up the manner it is now? A society whereby some individuals appear to possess much power to act however they want and others appear to possess no self-determination at all? Where, precisely, do these hierarchies originate from?

Leaders Eat Last looks at these questions by opposing our current societies –as well as their several technological developments and complicated systems that can make us confuse– with the types of societies we would have lived in the past thousands of years.

By doing that, we see that this separation into “leaders” and “followers” is basically a natural effect of our biology; however, that doesn’t really signify that every leader is good. Therefore, what makes a leader worth following?

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Chapter 1 – Our necessity for hierarchy as well as leadership is embedded in our biology.

Have you ever thought of how societies were separated into leaders as well as followers? The answer is really easy: biology.

Everything boils down to hormones, which grew over centuries to assist us to survive by influencing our feelings as well as moderating our actions, and which affect us just as much now as they did in the past tens of thousands of years.

Dopamine which is a hormone provides us with happy delight anytime we finish a job, like discovering a  thing we’ve been looking for or accomplishing our weight-loss aims. Also, serotonin and oxytocin impact our social lives by assisting us to form bonds with others.

We have endorphins as well, which camouflage tiredness and pain as physical pleasure. Endorphins are the reason for leaving the gym aglow after a difficult day of working and can’t wait to go back to the gym more. In the past ten thousand years, endorphins would have assisted a village’s hunters to carry on the hunt and go home with meat for their hungry families in spite of their physical tiredness. Nowadays, they motivate professional athletes, like runners, to accomplish their highest performance.

Additionally to assisting us to survive, hormone-driven action is as well in charge of forming the basic template for social hierarchy.

For instance, in hunter-gatherer societies, a rush of endorphins made hunters drive for miles and miles so as to get meat for the community, which ultimately brought them the advantages of higher status. People that are weak, who for one reason or the other couldn’t take part in the hunt, were made to accept less respected responsibilities, like gathering fruits.

The first step on the track towards social hierarchy was the difference between the “strong” and the “weak”.  Still, although definitely being liable for these class differences, hormones as well add togetherness to these hierarchical structures by giving the weaker people serotonin- or oxytocin-based kind feeling towards each other and the leader, instead of devastating stings of jealousy.

Chapter 2 – Our key engine of progress is a feeling of safety and it has to be guaranteed by the group as well as its leader.

When we talk about survival, living in a group provides lots of benefits, the most significant of which being that we don’t need to face dangers on our own.

This offers us a feeling of safety that lets us focus on progressing instead of evading threats. In ancient eras, we discovered danger nearly at all corner: we needed to defend ourselves from predators, other humans, and illnesses, while at the same time attempting to secure food and shelter.

But, staying and living in a group lets us split up the chores required for self-preservation, hence, let us focus on other certain projects, like making better tools. These, eventually, assist us to move forward as societies. As such, our brains have developed to prioritize feeling secure, which is the reason we now do weird things such as a stay in jobs we dislike basically since they make us feel safe.

However, safety doesn’t only appear from nowhere: it is a group’s leaders who form a circle of safety around the members of their community.

This circle of safety talks about a group of individuals who have the same common values and beliefs, and endeavor to protect each other from dangers. In this circle, members can trust each other and hence pool their resources so as to progress.

However, it is the leader who chooses just how far the circle spreads. For instance, Bob Chapman changed the path of management history at HayssenSandiacre by radically increasing the circle of safety, letting every worker have free access to company goods and services. Working in safe and trusting surroundings formed a relationship between the company’s workers, who even started assisting one another even during times of personal issues. Some even gave their own paid vacation days to the workers in need.

Given that living in a group allows us to feel safe now just as it did when we stayed in caves, we also require a leader that can assist us to pool our resources and make progress. 

Chapter 3 – Nowadays, the leader chooses a company’s culture and values, as well as their workers’ approach.

When we think of a CEO, we usually imagine a person who seals the deals and transfers gains through the roof. But, effectively managing a company has a lot to do with forming the culture as it does with handling finances.

This reason is that a company is beyond just the sum of its buildings, investors, as well as the employees. Also, it symbolizes a culture that determines how workers handle several issues, attend to customers, and prioritize values. Also, since leaders, like CEOs, choose how the company is managed, they craft its culture as well.

We can acquire more knowledge about how this functions by observing the history of Goldman Sachs: between the years 1970 and 1990, the company functioned under the slogan “long-term greedy,” revealing a readiness to support customers even though that entailed short-term financial losses. But, since the1990s, CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein, as well as the company president Gary D. Cohn, changed the company’s concentration to short-term profits, even when it came with a cost of the client.

Company culture doesn’t only have an effect on leadership – it goes all the way down the hierarchy by creating the values that workers need to accomplish so as to get employed and eventually remain with the company.

One great illustration of how company culture impacts workers can be seen in the courage of the workers at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which claims that the interest of guests’ comes before the interest of the company’s.

In the year 2008, terrorists invaded the hotel, and a number of the workers who had run away really went back to assist the guests, some workers even serving as human shields to guard fleeing hotel visitors! Of the entire individuals who were lost that day, 50% were hotel staff.

Now that we know about how leadership looks, the next chapters will look at the severe consequences of bad leadership.

Chapter 4 – Our responsibility originates from our proximity to as well as empathy for other people, without which we can lead to great damage.

Being a leader doesn’t really entail that you’re a drive for good. When the relationship between the leaders and their team members is in some way detached, the effects can be terrible.

Basically, the reason is that responsibility is essentially about caring for others; when we’re taken away from the individuals for whom we are responsible, we’re less careful about the harm we bring out.

Our emotion of responsibility originates from our empathy, the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. With the lack of empathy, we are at risk of getting emotionally detached from choices that affect other people. Also, if we include physical distance to the combination, it causes abstraction, where the repercussions of our behaviors look less real than they otherwise would.

Proof of abstraction can be found in Milgram Experiment, whereby one group of volunteers, known as Teachers, were informed to press buttons that would give electric shocks of higher intensity – from a mild sting to a possibly harmful jolt – on the other group of participants, known as Learners. Unknown to the Teachers, the entire Learners were actors who weren’t really being electrocuted.

Although a lot of participants showed severe discomfort at causing obvious harm onto the Learners, Milgram discovered that the less proximity a Teacher had to a Learner, the more likely the Teacher was to carry on with the trial. As a matter of fact, over 50% of the participants in one certain group, who could neither view nor hear the writhing and cries of pain from the Learners, ultimately inflicted what would have been lethal voltage!

When abstraction happens, we start to prioritize our interests over that of others, which can make us to actively make choices at the cost of others.

For instance, think of the maiden voyage of the. According to the management, the lives of the passengers were just abstractions, which is the reason why they chose to reduce the price of extra lifeboats. Even though extra lifeboats wouldn’t have stopped the Titanic from sinking, this type of heartless decision-making added to a lot of avoidable deaths.

Chapter 5 – Bad leadership has added to contemporary-day selfishness as well as the dehumanization of other people.

As we’ve realized already, being in a group gives us a feeling of safety as well as the possibility for growth. On the other hand, feeling on your own and threatened allows us to selfish and makes us dehumanize other people.

This can be easily seen when we look at the baby boomers or the generation of people that were born after the Second World War. Been brought up spoiled by a flourishing economy and outnumbering their parents’ generation, they got more selfish than their parents. Furthermore, the normal nature for the younger generation to go against the values of the former one allowed the baby boomers to be more self-centered and critical of authority than their parents, who only survived the war through unity.

This preference for self-centered action over-unity can be noticed in how the baby boomers received President Ronald Reagan’s handling of the air traffic controllers’ strike in the year 1981. Reagan sacked 11,000 striking employees, supporting firms who opposed the air traffic controllers’ requests for better salary and prioritized profits over the well-being of the employees.

Also, as soon as we prioritize the hunt for profits over every other thing, it can cause the dehumanization of other people.

This is partly as a result of the technology that makes it possible for global business. Because businesses work on that kind of huge scale, it’s very easy to consider individuals as abstractions, like consumers, shareholders or expenses.

Hence, we are very likely to dehumanize others, that is, to view them as tools that achieve a certain aim than we are to treat them as living, breathing individuals that have their own needs and desires. 

For instance, consider the salmonella outbreak that happened in the year 2009, which killed nine people and contaminated hundreds more. How did this outbreak happen? The Peanut Corporation of America brought contaminated peanuts to over three hundred companies; hence, letting the disease to spread.

The really disturbing part is that this was not a mistake: the PCA management knowingly transported contaminated peanuts in order to maintain its cash flow.

Chapter 6 – Contemporary society has gotten addicted to faster and better performance.

What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “addiction”? Most likely things such as alcohol or drugs. It may come as a surprise to you; however, you can as well be addicted to performance.

This addiction is closely connected to our biology. While the production of dopamine was one time related directly to our survival, these days it’s connected to our job performance, rewarding us when we attain better and faster performance. A lot of firms trying to increase their production accept this, all too easy not remembering the stability offered by long-term aims.

Think of the firm America Online. The part of their workers in charge of client acquisition devised offers for “free” hours as a means to attract new clients. These workers were motivated to concentrate on that particular aspect of performance, that is, get a lot of individuals signed up as possible, and they ultimately began making offers of 1,000 free hours every month!

Even though they were performing what they were asked to do, they eventually ended up costing the company lots of amount of money by not considering long-term repercussions. 

Furthermore, due to the fact that we’re we have this whole incredible technology around us, it has changed our focus from long-lasting value to receiving a quick “buzz.” Looking at any internet-based human rights campaign can reveal to us the reason why:

On Facebook, when we “like” some kind of human rights campaign – or anything, it activates a dopamine reaction that offers us a gush of delight for having finished a piece of work. For us to avoid ourselves from getting addicted to these small rush of dopamine, we have to even them out with serotonin- and oxytocin-driven sacrifice, that is., truly going to a place to volunteer or forming a bond with actual people.

The issue is that technology makes it very easy and easier to only click “like,” and real volunteer work remains just as difficult as it usually was. Due to that, we get addicted to the “quick fix.”

Now that we understand what defines bad leadership. These last chapters will not just talk about what it needs to be a leader; however, be a leader worth following.

Chapter 7 – Integrity and the ability to form a connection with other people are vital for leadership.

What comes to your mind when you think of a good leader? You most likely reflect on their certain abilities and skills that assist them to do well at what they do. In reality, everything boils down to integrity and the ability to form a connection with other people.

We have to be able to trust our leaders, which entails that they need to have integrity. All of us are aware that leaders are just human, and we, hence, don’t expect them to be very perfect. But, what we should expect is that they’re truthful and forthcoming about their errors and take charge of them.

The feeling of safety that is really significant to the group is founded gradually over time upon a basis of honesty and trust. Hence, a leader has a chance to lay an illustration to other people with her integrity.

For instance, in the year 2009, the Ralph Lauren Corporation discovered that its Argentine branch had partaken in bribery. Instead of staging a detailed cover-up, in its place, the company leaders told the American authorities and even suggested to assist them in the investigation. Even though this strategy entailed that the company had to pay more than a sum of one million dollars in penalties, it was able to maintain its integrity, and hence the trust of its clients and workers.

Also, as soon as leaders have gotten the trust of their group, they have to maintain that trust by forming relationships with others. Maybe with their customers, workers, colleagues or contenders, it’s significant for a leader to sustain real bonds so as to remain honest and attentive on the needs of other people.

We can notice how a lack of relationship can have an effect on leadership by examining the US Congress. Until the 1990s, the majority of the congressmen and -women stayed in Washington and hence communicated every day, which brought about laws built upon close collaboration. But, nowadays, the majority of the members of Congress live at another place and travel to Washington for just a few days per week. The outcome? Some of the lowest approval ratings in the history of congression!

Chapter 8 – Being a leader entails putting other people above yourself so as to accomplish a vision.

When you go the voting stand to vote for the next leader of your nation, what are some of the things you think of? What kind of personal attributes do you check for? What makes the candidate them a leader and not just a “regular individual”?

Basically, a leader makes a vision for the future that the whole group feels motivated to accomplish. Even though all group members possess personal goals, the entire group requires a goal so as to stay cohesive, and that goal arises from the vision of a leader.

For instance, consider Bill Gates. His aim wasn’t to make billions of dollars or even to make a great company. His vision was to have a computer on all desks. It is exactly this dream that makes sure that Microsoft doesn’t lose itself in the wealth of profits and opportunities, and rather stays as a key force on the market.

Counterintuitively, by giving a vision for the future, leaders really serve the led and not vice versa. Certainly, real leaders know that their responsibility is to serve the individuals that follow them. Even though leaders actually enjoy specific benefits, these come at the price of huge duty to the individuals they lead. During times of difficulty, a real leader will make use of his entire personal resources for the good of the public.

This principle takes on a somewhat precise shape in the Marine Corps, where most senior members usually get their meal last. This is not an agreement neither is it an order; however, a statement: leaders eat last. Just one time they are able to put their own needs last can they claim that they’ve earned their position as leaders.

The real meaning of the word “leader” can be seen in the word itself: you have to lead individuals in a specific path, revealing to them the way and offering them a goal to walk on it. Also, in that direction, the leaders have to follow last in line to make sure that all members of the group get to the end.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek Book Review

Real leaders prioritize the needs of the group above their own and hence make sure that the entire group progresses. Since the vision of a leader is a cause for action, it’s significant to make sure that these leaders are a force for good.

Bear in mind that: Your workers are your family.

When you consult your workers, see them as family members rather than your subordinates.

Have a vision.

If you think of how to direct your company, attempt to have a vision for the future, rather than focusing on short-term aims.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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