Leaders Eat Last

Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work. Crazy? An idealised notion? Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organisations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a Circle of Safety. It separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. Everyone feels they belong and all energies are devoted to facing the common enemy and seizing big opportunities.

Dopamine-driven performance

Sinek illustrates his ideas with stories, from the military to manufacturing, from the government to investment banking. He shows that leaders who are willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance their vision.

Your job may be killing you

A new set of values and norms has been established for our businesses and our society — a system of dopamine-driven performance that rewards us for individual achievement at the expense of the balancing effects of serotonin and oxytocin that reward us for working together and building bonds of trust and loyalty. It is truly toxic – your job may be killing you.

Everyone for himself

This feeling of `belonging’ is what has disappeared from the corporate workplace to a large extent. It has been replaced by an ethos of `everyone for himself. even the `winners’ in this environment are actually losers because of the personal price they pay in terms of insecurity and lack of meaningful relations, not to mention health side effects.

Building great people who do extraordinary things

Sinek talks about how to bring the balance back in our workplace so both companies and individuals can thrive side by side in a symbiotic relationship. And he gives lots of examples such as the Barry Wehmiller companies where CEO Bob Chapman is dedicated to `building great people who do extraordinary things. And Charlie Kim, CEO of Next Jump who implemented a policy of lifetime employment. Compares the results achieved by James Sinegal, CEO of Costco and Jack Welch the much-touted former CEO of General Electric. Welch’s paradigm of pitting executives against each other created a high-stress environment and the gains were short-lived and unsustainable.

Paid wages which were nearly double

In contrast, Sinegal built a strong `circle of safety’ for his people, paid wages which were nearly double those at Walmart and did many things to engender loyalty and trust. Costco employees are loyal and have built it into the second largest retailer in the country and the growth is both balanced and continuing.

The author simply defines leadership

It’s an environment where people are important, their thinking matters, where values are shared and together they are passing through the good and bad, knowing that it is all an integral part of every job and life.

Why achieving team goals are important

As Simon Sinek says, it is the times we work together to achieve a team goal which stays with us as our best working memories – working late and just achieving the deadline – having a vision and collectively finding the answer are so much more ultimately satisfying that the dopamine hits of short term individual gains.

Exceptional organisations 

  • The leaders of great organisations do not see people as a commodity to be managed to help grow the money.
  • Work-life balance has nothing to do with the hours we work or the stress we suffer; it has to do with where we feel safe.
  • Most people would never get rid of their children during hard times, so how can we lay off our people under the same conditions?
  • The leaders of organisations who rise through the ranks not because they want it but because the tribe keeps offering higher status out of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice are the true leaders worthy of our trust and loyalty. Gives us an easier time to focus on tasks.

It’s not rocket science’

Sinek’s ‘it’s not rocket science’ approach uses relevant case to highlight organizations that not only find success in a people-centric culture but thrive while outmanoeuvring their competition. For employees of these companies, w-o-r-k is no longer a four-letter word. People become leaders when they accept responsibility to protect those in their care

Collaboration and Co-operation

Drawing on examples from Apple, Goldman Sachs, GE, Walmart, Microsoft and many other organisations, including the US Congress, Sinek shows that collaboration and co-operation in pursuit of a meaningful vision work much better than quick fixes and headline-grabbing announcements While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader”, an essay that he first published in 1970.

Key takeaways

  1.  It’s the leader that creates or destroys an organization’s culture.
  2.  Customers will NEVER love a company until the employees love it first. Southwest Airlines is a good example of these leadership principles.
  3. Much has been written about the 12 Steps of AA. Simon points out that alcoholics typically fail if they only do the first 11 steps. Those that do Step 12 … commit to helping another alcoholic beat the disease … succeed in the AA program. Same principle for leadership. If a leader helps a person be successful, the leader becomes a success.

In summary

Sinek says humans are animals prepared for cooperation with a need to trust and leaders have to recognise this reality. It is a message that can and should be heard

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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