“Everything about being a leader is like being a parent. It’s about committing to the well being of those in our care and having a willingness to make sacrifices to see their interests advanced so they may carry our banner long after we are gone. We must all start today to do little things for the good of others.” These are some of Simon Sinek’s final words in his extraordinary book, Leaders Eat Last. A book he dedicated to the men and woman of the United States Air Force and what they taught him about “what it means to be human.”
Leaders Eat Last is much more than a book about leadership; it’s about people, our relationships with each other, and our opportunity to help ourselves and those around us not just survive but thrive. It illuminates the imperative of such things as me to we, circles of safety, the paradox of being human and our dependencies on each other within the environments in which we interact. This all may be best captured in Lieutenant General George J. Flynn’s Forward, where he describes Sinek’s purpose for the book as one in which the author would like to make the world a better place for all of us. And personally speaking, I believe what Sinek is proposing could do exactly that.
Sinek does use the context of work, leaders, and leadership to deliver his message. He makes the connection early in the book with the title of the second chapter, “Employees Are People Too,” and doesn’t waste any time by jumping straight into such things as empathy, trust, and well-being in the context of the workforce. He talks about creating cultures that “inspire people to give all they have to give simply because they love where they work.” Inspiration is from the Latin word inspirare, defined as breathing life into another human being. And Sinek clearly hoists this responsibility on the leaders making many references to the fact that leadership is not a license to do less but a responsibility to do more while also being clear that leadership can in the end only be granted by the led.
In summary, Leaders Eat Last conveys a message to those of us who choose to lead about our opportunity, dare I say responsibility, to provide the environment and conditions where the well-being of the precious lives in our care is the priority, and human flourishing the desired outcome. The resulting activation of the extraordinary potential and performance that lives largely untapped in most individuals and subsequently the organizations in which they work will be exponential.