In this book, Leaders Eat Last Simon Sinek talks about the importance of leadership. Why it is the need of the hour and why the current system is failing us. We currently in the workforce and other areas prioritize numbers over people. Mass layoffs being a common sight just to balance the books is a very damaging sign.
We’re more worried about the profit and less about the person. We’re not empathetic to our peers anymore. We’ve created an environment that is very detrimental to us, and it is high time that we bring about a change. He shares many examples and case studies to prove his point.
There are 5 main chemicals in our body that allow us to experience pain, accomplishment, pride, trust, and worry. They are Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Cortisol.
The purpose of Endorphins is to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to mask physical pain. These hormones are released after a hard workout or running. A Runner’s high is basically endorphins being released in the system. They mask physical pain with pleasure.
Dopamine gives the feeling of accomplishment. When we cross off something from our to-do list or complete an important task, we feel a rush of dopamine. As important as it is to get our tasks done. Dopamine can turn out to be highly addictive.
Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling and even our phones release a shot of Dopamine. Yes, it’s true. It is said that if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you crave,
is a drink, you might be an alcoholic. If you wake up in the morning and the
first thing you do is check your phone to read e-mail or scan through your
social media before you even get out of bed, you might be an addict.
Endorphins and Dopamine are selfish chemicals. They are the chemicals of progress or the individualism chemicals, but to function in a society we also need Social chemicals or the selfless chemicals, namely Seratonin and Oxytocin.
Serotonin is the leadership chemical. We get a sense of pride when we win an award, and the first thing that we do is thank those who’ve helped us along the way. We have a sense of sharing the accomplishment. Serotonin tries to reinforce relationships and helps in looking after others.
Oxytocin is also known as the love chemical. It produces feelings of trust and safety. The Power of Oxytocin allows us to help others. Acts of human generosity mainly arise because of a shot of oxytocin. The more you give, the happier you get It’s a long-term process and not instant like dopamine. It takes a while. Oxytocin boosts our immune systems and makes us better problem solvers.
Cortisol is responsible for the stress and anxiety that we experience. It is an alarm system that keeps us alive and shouldn’t be tinkered with on a regular basis. It is an inhibitor of Oxytocin. It messes with our immune system and stunts our growth. This is why when our job is at risk or when we face danger, we turn into self-preservation mode. We try to protect ourselves at the expense of others.
This is what causes Heart diseases, Cancer and diabetes. Our Work Culture contributes to these problems. We are lacking leaders and our jobs are literally killing us.
Our bodies are trying to reward us to repeat behaviour in our best interest.
Circle Of Safety
In the circle of safety, we are nice and comfortable on the inside. We are oblivious to any outside threat. We need to incorporate this system into our current work culture, in fact, we have the opposite. We are always trying to backstab or one-up one another to get a pay raise, and we are envious of those who climb the ranks.
Instead, if we try to work together and help one another, it would go a long way. We need to be empathetic to one another and just tell the truth to earn the trust of those around us. We need to look out for one another and have their backs.
A lion used to prowl the fields where 4 oxen used to graze. When the lion tried to attack the oxen, it was always met by the horns. However, once there was infighting among them they would separate, and the lion attacked one by one and soon made a meal of all four of them- Aesop.
Once the circle of safety is broken, it all goes downhill from there.
Examples of how to lead
- The Bob Chapman Story
When Bob Chapman took over the Barry-Wehmiller Company. He noticed that lower grade employees were treated very poorly. They weren’t allowed to use payphones and couldn’t take coffee breaks until the bell rang. There was a hierarchy problem and Bob Chapman realized that to earn the trust of his employees, he first had to start treating them like people and not cattle.
Chapman removed payphones and replaced them with company phones so that anybody could use them as they felt necessary. No coins, no permission required. This was going to be the new norm.
He treated everyone equally regardless of their designation, and soon the employees started to enjoy their job. Work no longer felt a place to dread, it felt a place to be valued.
- 26/11 Terrorist Attacks
During the tragic terrorist attacks of the Taj Hotel in 2008. The people present in the attack acted so bravely. One of the finest hotels in the world, the Taj insists that their people put the Interests of their guests before those of the company; in fact, they are often rewarded for doing so. The Work Culture amongst the people led to this selfless act. Most of the casualties were hotel staff who sacrificed their own lives for the guests.
- Charlie Kim Next Jump
Charlie Kim, the founder of Next Jump, took a bold decision of providing lifetime employment to his employees, which further enhanced the circle of safety.
They don’t just consider skills and experience; they spend a lot of Time evaluating the character of the candidates who want to work there. For every one hundred candidates, only one will get a job.
Kim thinks of his employees as his children If you won’t throw away your children at hard times why would you consider laying off your employees he says.
Even though many of the engineers at Next Jump get job offers from Google or Facebook or other big tech companies, they don’t leave. They would rather work at a place in which they feel like they belong.
Why Leaders Eat Last
A Leader might enjoy the incentives, but it comes at a price. In ancient times, a leader or an alpha would get the first choice of meat and the first choice of mate. The other members of the tribe didn’t seem to have a problem for as long as he provided.
I Remembered a scene from Cinderella Man (Great Movie by the way) where Russell Crowe gave away his steak for his daughter who was hungry. That’s the epitome of a leader. When there’s danger, it’s not about protecting oneself it’s about giving the essence of life to the person you love before you can give it to yourself.
- Styrofoam Cup
The Under Secretary of Defence, while giving a speech to the audience, interrupted his own speech and said last year when I was still an UnderSecretary I flew in Business class Had someone escort me from the airport to the hotel and someone else at the hotel was waiting for me. In the lobby, while I was waiting, I was given coffee by a gentleman in a beautiful ceramic cup.
But this year I’m no longer Under-Secretary I flew coach had no one at the airport to escort me to the hotel and while I waited in the lobby, I had to pour myself a cup of coffee from the Coffee Machine on a Styrofoam cup.
I’ve come to realize that I didn’t deserve the ceramic cup. It was meant for the position I held. The Styrofoam Cup is meant for the role you fill once you’re done somebody else will take your place. All I ever deserved was a Styrofoam cup.
In the present culture, a Leader should protect us when under threat. He should take the scrutiny when the team’s under fire and share the glory when rewarded.
A true Leader would sacrifice himself for us and not us for them. A Leader’s best interest is the people around him and not himself.
In the military they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In Business we are giving bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice people so that we may gain.Simon Sinek
Make a difference: Be the Leader you wish you had.