Book Review: 'Leaders Eat Last' by Simon Sinek

“Leaders are the ones willing to look out for those to the left of them and those to the right of them. Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.” 

Simon Sinek’s newest book, "Leaders Eat Last", is inspiring and thought-provoking, in part because he uses so many relatable, nonbusiness metaphors to illustrate his message — military protocol, parenthood, news stories, and even the evolutionary development of our own minds and bodies.

He writes at length about powerful and historical forces that have not only shaped our culture as a whole, but that also reign influence on our actions and interactions as individuals. Forces like needing to feel safe, wanting to belong, survival instincts, cataclysmic events, addiction, generational divides, and our own physiologies have tremendous impact on our professional work ethic, too.

Multiple points of view

Sinek discusses issues from all points of view — the employees, the managers and society at large. He acknowledges both the realistic and the idealistic sides of business conditions as they relate to leadership. “Most leaders intellectually understand the importance and value of putting the well-being of people first. But the reality of running a business, big or small, private or public, makes it nearly impossible…the pressures are intense.” He goes on to say,  “But like the Spartans, we will have to learn that our strength will come not from the sharpness of our spears, but from our willingness to offer others the protection of our shields.”

The book summarizes the results of many interesting case studies and research trials about stress and anxiety in the workplace, group dynamics, obedience, trust and happiness, as well as financial strategies and market performance. Sinek also looks at examples of leadership from political figures such as Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, and heads of large organizations, including Steve Jobs (Apple), Stanley O’Neal (Merrill Lynch), and Mark Fowler (FCC).

Inspiring your team

Each story and study provides a solid take-away for managers, to help you take better care of your employees and stay focused on the well-being of your organization. While this book isn’t about new leadership theories or management principles, after reading it you will learn more about how to inspire your team and bring out their best work, how to improve loyalty and engagement, how to guide creativity into profitability … and why it’s all so important to do.

In the foreword, retired Marine Lt. General George J. Flynn makes an important distinction that sets the tone for the book. “A good number of our educational institutions and training programs today are focused not on developing great leaders, but on training effective managers. Short-term gains are viewed as the mark of success and long-term organizational growth and viability are simply the bill payers. Leaders Eat Last is an effort to change this paradigm. [Sinek’s] vision is simple: to create a new generation of men and women who understand that an organization’s success or failure is based on leadership excellence and not managerial acumen.”

Are you managing to becoming the leader you want to be?