Leaders Eat Last
Why some teams pull together and others don’t.
By Simon Sinek | Reviewed by Margot Miller, PT
I read Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why, which challenged traditional assumptions about how great leaders and great companies inspire people. On the inside cover of his newest book, Leaders Eat Last, it asks, “Why do only a few people get to say “I love my job”? It goes on to say, “Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home fulfilled.” I knew this book would provide an important message about leadership. And I was not wrong.
In so many organizations today, being promoted to leadership positions is often based on being “good” at doing “something.” We ask someone to stop “doing” and start managing, often based on nothing more than their ability to do whatever it was, well. Sinek’s message is that the skills that make for a strong leader—a leader we want to follow—have little to do with their ability to complete tasks, and instead on other characteristics such as integrity and trust.
Sinek works with and takes leadership lessons from the Marine Corp. Leadership – true leadership—is the ability to infuse those who report to you with an unshakeable trust in your intentions. You give them zero reason to believe you have anything other than their best interests in mind. Sinek provides example after example with case studies and insight into how our brains process information on how giving of your time is more effective than giving money. Bonuses and raises do little to engender trust or strengthen relationship. He advises us not to mistake giving financial rewards as a worthwhile replacement for giving of our time, energy, and attention. If you want to develop your own leadership credibility, give your people the gift of your time, as much and as often as you can.
If you are unhappy in the way you spend your workday, it is difficult to give of yourself to the level your people need. Children, spouses, co-workers, and those who report to you are directly impacted by your own level of happiness. It has to do with our feelings of safety, what Sinek calls “The Circle of Safety.” Our stress levels and self-preservation tendencies go down when we find ourselves in an environment that we trust is built to protect us. When we feel that our leaders are happy, secure, and working to protect the tribe because they want to do it, we focus our attention and energy on achieving for the good of the tribe.
In practical terms, effective leaders need to commit to being here. We need to find personal satisfaction in our roles and move our attention off ourselves and onto the best interests of the people we lead. This may seem obvious, but it is an important self-check if we feel like those in our charge are self-serving. The most effective teams are led by selfless leaders: leaders whose best attributes are trustworthiness and integrity; individuals who put the needs of the group ahead of personal gain. In a trusting environment we can focus on doing the best we can, which greatly benefits us and the company. This feeling of belonging has disappeared from the workplace to a large extent and has been replaced by an ethos of everyone for himself. Sinek talks about bringing the balance back in the workplace so both companies and individuals can thrive side by side in a symbiotic relationship. He discusses how to build a strong “circle of safety” and engender loyalty and trust. When it matters most, leaders who are willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance the leader’s vision and their organization’s vision.
Physical therapy private practices are challenged every day by a variety of competitors and distractions. Leaders who inspire a team to work together, and do remarkable things as described in Sinek’s book, present an opportunity you will want to take. You, too, can build a stable, adaptive, and confident team—where everyone feels they belong, and all energies are devoted to working together. I highly recommend Leaders Eat Last.
Margot Miller, PT, is a PPS member and the chief clinical advisor for NextImage Medical/WorkWell. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.