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Leaders Eat Last Book Summary

Introduction (Book Cover Photo)

Hi Success Titan reader, I’m Sal Damiata, and that’s the book summary of “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. Enjoy your read!

Who’s this book for? (Pain, Problem, Lack)

  • Everybody who’s struggling with maintaining a good and effective leadership position.
  • People hating their jobs, company culture, or family environment.
  • People that find it hard to create sustainable human relationships.

What you’ll learn from this book (Benefit, Fill, Solution)

  • How to become a true leader that inspires others to follow you genuinely. 
  • How hormones shape human behavior, choices, and actions.
  • How to better manage yourself, others, and create healthier working and living environments. 

The book in a nutshell

  • Leaders are supposed to eat last because the very definition of a leader is a person that is willing to put his needs last to protect the tribe and lead it towards a shared vision and purpose through mutual collaboration, respect, and trust.

Three sentence summary

  • If you want to be an effective leader, the secret lies in creating an environment where everybody starts to trust you. Creating an environment where making mistakes is allowed and where people are not judged and where an environment of trust and cooperation is established.
  • The secret to leadership success lies in balancing our “selfish” hormones with our “selfless” ones so that we become balanced people being both effective and with our human warmth. 
  • A true leader of a company should put people first so that they feel safe and work in an environment promoting progress triggered by cooperation instead of progress triggered by the terror of being fired.

Big Ideas

Those are the most relevant ideas expressed in the book that we’ll explore together.

  1. Our need for hierarchy is rooted in our biology
  2. Balance your hormones
  3. Good vs. bad leadership
  4. Trust and Empathy are Essential
  5. Companies should put people first

Let’s explore them together now:

Big Idea #1: Our need for hierarchy is rooted in our biology (Photo 1)

We are human beings endowed with reasoning faculties beyond the ones that animals have; anyway, the majority of our behavior has been dictated and is still dictated by our hormones. They, in fact, control our emotions and moderate our behavior according to the circumstances where we find ourselves and are there to help us survive firstly and thrive secondly.

We need hierarchies because they create the basis for a group formation. Being part of a group makes us feel safe, and it’s only when we operate under safety conditions that we can grow. That’s when we are more creative, more collaborative, and more in tune with one another. This means that the priority in any society is to make people feel safe. That “circle of safety” must be determined by leaders so that they can create the boundaries for a safe environment where people share the same value systems and fight for those values.

If you want to be an effective leader, the secret lies in creating an environment where everybody starts to trust you. Creating an environment where making mistakes is allowed and where people are not judged and where an environment of trust and cooperation is established. That being the case, our natural hierarchical nature will be effective and create the stable conditions that we all humans look for.

A Relatable Example

Have you ever seen how, when you get into a new group where nobody knows each other, people naturally tend to understand who the leader is in that group? That’s because we are wired in such a way to create effective social structures amongst us humans, and we do this with our innate hierarchical instinct. 

Next time you will find yourself in a new group where nobody knows each other, pay close attention to how people will be busy trying to figure out who the leaders in that group might be.

Big Idea #2: Balance Your hormones (Photo 2)

If you thought that your behavior was mostly driven by your conscious thoughts, think again. Your hormones, in fact, play a massive role in the determination of how we feel, think, and subsequently act. Simon Sinek outlines 4 different hormones that we are subject to; Dopamine, Endorphins, Serotonin, and Oxytocin. The first two of those hormones are defined by him as “selfish” hormones, while the other two are the “selfless” hormones. Let’s see what their effects are in our bodies. 

1: Dopamine is the hormone that makes us feel good after having completed a task. It gives us that feeling of accomplishment, just like when you tick your to-do list or when you reach a milestone being part of a long-term project. Dopamine is a selfish chemical because you don’t actually need anyone to get it released. Those are the selfless and social chemicals. Responsible for trust, loyalty, and cooperation.

2: Endorphins have the function to disguise exhaustion and pain as pleasure. That’s why when you work out until you’re exhausted, you feel really good, or whenever you surpass your physical limits from the previous ones, you feel that rush of that hormone. That’s a way or biology kept the hunters fit and got them back to hunting so that they could provide for the whole tribe as long as possible. 

The problem with the two hormones above is that feelings don’t last much, and we’ll be too selfish if we only produce those hormones, thus being corrupt leaders. Let’s now explore the other 2 hormones.

3: Serotonin is the hormone that gives us the feeling of status, pride, and self-confidence. To trigger the production of this hormone, public events are a great way as public recognition makes us produce it. This hormone plays a vital role as when produced, it reinforces the relationship between coach-player, father-son, and leader-follower, creating healthy and stable mutual relationships.

4: Oxytocin is the hormone of love, trust, loyalty warm, and all that fairy tales and unicorn things that women love especially. It is released through physical contact like high fives, hugs, kisses, etc. This hormone boosts the immune system and makes us feel great, that’s why one of the best things you can do is doing something nice for somebody else on purpose. Moreover, it has been found that the more oxytocin we have in our system and the more good we wanna make, and the smarter we become as oxytocin engages our frontal lobe. 

Those are the selfless chemicals instead, promoting human connection, trust, and stability. The secret, according to Sinek, lies in balancing our selfish hormones with our selfless ones in our bodies so that we become balanced beings and effective leaders. We would never be complete or totally efficient with an imbalance either on the selfish or the selfless side.

A Relatable Example

The classic example of a leader being full of selfish hormones is one that only sees profit over people and doesn’t care at all about people’s health. Those are the typical leaders we see today in most companies that are causing lots of harm to their employees due to their over-competitive mindset and environment they create. Progress anyway is essential to human development, that’s why we need a leadership that pushes us forward while still considering a human being as such. Balance is key.

Big Idea #3: Good vs. Bad Leadership (Photo 3)

True leadership is about sacrificing yourself for other people, not using other people to your own benefit, and status improvement. According to Sinek, leadership is not just a social rank as in today’s world, there are many people at the top of organizations that are not true leaders, while others at the bottom of them are from what he saw.

To achieve good leadership, you should balance your oxytocin levels with your dopamine ones so that you strive to become a better person while at the same time don’t only look at some materialistic goals you might achieve. When those chemicals are in balance, people will feel good; that’s why he also suggests socializing with real people instead of spending time over social media. When you socialize with real people or do volunteering, for example, you will produce serotonin and be a more effective leader. 

Remember that being a leader comes with some costs as leaders always sacrifice their comfort to protect people. They do have a higher status for a reason so that when danger comes, they will step out to face the danger and protect their tribe. They have access to better resources and mating opportunities as well to make sure their gene pool replicates since true leaders are at a higher risk of death. If you want to be a leader, become comfortable with this idea as everything comes with its own cost.

A Relatable Example

The true leaders of history have been the ones that back then went to fight along with their soldiers to defend their values. Those leaders have been rare in history, but the ones that we can remember are Marcus Aurelius, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and many more. Those leaders have all one thing in common; they cared about their fellow so much that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for them.

Big Idea #4: Trust and Empathy are Essential (Photo 4)

If you don’t develop your emphatic side and you keep not caring about others, you can create a lot of harm in this world, especially if you’re a leader. Not having enough empathy towards another human being causes abstraction where the consequences of our actions would seem less real than they actually would. This especially happens when two people are physically further away from themselves.

What Sinek advises is not to prioritize your own interests with respect to other people’s ones as this attitude would make us do actions at other people’s expenses. To inspire trust in other people is also necessary for you to possess integrity. Honesty and trust are the elements that will make the difference when it comes to creating sustainable human relationships. In the end, Sinek adds, our natural predisposition is to trust people and cooperate with them.

A Relatable Example

The Milgram experiment showed how distancing ourselves from people makes us less empathetic towards them. That’s why online communities are not a great way to bond as the larger the proximity between you and somebody, and the larger the perceived difference with less empathy. Try to relate more to people in real situations and to become a more whole individual. People will perceive you more as a leader, they can trust and with whom they can naturally bond. 

Big Idea #5: Companies should put people first (Photo 5)

The success of a company lies both in the culture of the company and on managing finances. The culture anyway is the first step as it permeates every aspect of it; in fact, when you instill trust and collaboration amongst people, you’ll see bigger profits in the long-term. Being part of a group makes us feel safe while feeling alone makes us feel selfish and makes us dehumanize others. 

A true leader of a company should create a culture that inspires trust, and that makes people feel safe as a company is just like a tribe of people striving for a mutual goal and mutual values. The rules of tribe leadership then must be transposed to company leadership as well if we want to create long-lasting and healthy companies.

True leaders understand that their job is to serve people that follow them at the cost of responsibility and sacrifices. That’s the culture in the Marine environment where seniors Marines are always the ones eating last, thus making sure their junior members’ needs are met. Put your needs last, and you’ll be a leader. A great way to do this is by having a vision for the future and inspiring others to follow you by keeping people cohesive. Give people a purpose to fight for and fight along with them on that purpose. 

A Relatable Example

Jack Welch in General Electric would fire 10% of the lowest-performing managers every year to improve the company’s performance and reputation. Anyway, the environment created by such a kind of attitude was one of competition instead of collaboration. There is enough evidence to prove that the carrot and sticks system doesn’t work to keep the company’s health, as true motivation is not based on obligations. This makes people leave their jobs more frequently, apart from sub-communicating that the company is putting profits before people and not the reverse. 

Conclusion & Takeaway

We are not alone in this world, and as people, we must recognize that we can’t do everything by ourselves. That’s where the elements of empathy and collaboration come into play, making us humans stronger than we can ever be alone.

My Personal Advice (Book Summary’s Writer Photo)

My personal advice this time is to start putting those principles into practice in the small community where you can be a leader. This could just mean your family or if you have some friends, your social circle, depending on how socially connected you are. Practice is always essential to learn new lessons in life, so I invite you to see for yourself how applying those principles will improve your life.

More About The Author

Simon Sinek is a British-American author and motivational speaker. He traveled the world when he was young, living in continents like Africa, Europe, and Asia, before moving to the United States, where he got a Bachelor in Cultural Anthropology from Brandeis University, Massachusetts. His TED talk “Start with why” is one of the most viewed TED talks in the entire channel, giving him enough exposure to become a respected speaker digital influencer in the realm of personal growth and leadership.

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