Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

I just finished Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek. This is easily one of the best and most important books I’ve ever read. Simon makes sense of the observations you’ve already made. It isn’t a business or management book; it’s a life book–a book about community and making the world a better place. Favorite highlights below…

Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth.

I know of no case study in history that describes an organization that has been managed out of a crisis. Every single one of them was led.

 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

 

We want to do right by them so that they can accomplish all that they set out to do. It is because of serotonin that we can’t feel a sense of accountability to numbers; we can only feel accountable to people.

 

A 2010 study by three psychology scientists—Francesca Gino of Chapel Hill, Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke—showed that people who wear phony couture clothing actually don’t feel the same burst of pride or status as those who wear the real thing. Faking it, it turns out, makes us feel phony, as if we are cheating. Status is biological, we have to earn it to feel it. The same study also concluded that those who attempted to cheat their biology were actually more inclined to cheat in other aspects of their lives as well.

 

It is fun to watch the politicians who announce that if elected they will do all these good things because they care about us. And if they lose their election, many go on to do none of those things. The rank of office is not what makes someone a leader. Leadership is the choice to serve others with or without any formal rank.

 

What too many leaders of organizations fail to appreciate is that it’s not the people that are the problem. The people are fine. Rather, it’s the environment in which the people operate that is the problem. Get that right and things just go.

 

Given our obsessive need to feel safe among those in our tribe—our communities and our companies—we inherently put a premium value on those who give us their time and energy. Whereas money has relative value ($100 to a college student is a lot, $100 to a millionaire is a little), time and effort have an absolute value. No matter how rich or poor someone is, or where or when they are born, we all have 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year.

 

As the Zen Buddhist saying goes, how you do anything is how you do everything.

 

The rise of shareholder primacy and an overreliance on external, dopamine incentives to drive that primacy has put executives in the habit of thinking for the short term, a trend that is not surprising if you consider that the average tenure of a corporate CEO is five years.

 

The perverse interpretation of shareholder-first has created cultures in which barely a single person working in any public company, large or small, feels protected by their leaders.

 

Costco pays its workers an average of about $20 an hour (while the federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour). By comparison, Walmart’s average wage for full-time employees in the U.S. is roughly $13 an hour, and the company provides health-care insurance for only about half of its workers. And that’s not all. While Walmart and other major retailers have rallied behind an effort to defeat an increase in the federal minimum wage, Costco executives have been vocal in their support of it. “Instead of minimizing wages,” said Jelinek, in a 2013 statement supporting an increase, “we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty.”

 

Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

 

We would prefer that that air traffic controller check his e-mail or send his text messages during his breaks. I think we would all feel much better if access to the Internet and a personal cell phone were completely forbidden (which they are). Only because our lives are at stake do we see this example as stark. So if we take the life and death part away, why would we think that we can do our work, check our phones, write a paragraph, send a text, write another paragraph, send another text, without the same damage to our ability to concentrate?

 

[I]ts members [Gen Y] will have grown up using Facebook, prescription drugs or online support groups as their primary coping mechanisms rather than relying on real support groups: biological bonds of friendship and loving relationships. I predict we will see a rise in depression, prescription drug abuse, suicide and other anti-social behaviors. In 1960, the number of notable school shootings was one. In the 1980s there were 27. The 1990s saw 58 school shootings, and from 2000 until 2012 there were 102 school shootings.

 

Empathy is not something we offer to our customers or our employees from nine to five. Empathy is, as Johnny Bravo explains, “a second by second, minute by minute service that [we] owe to everyone if [we] want to call [ourselves] a leader.”

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