Leaders Eat Last

Leadership is something that is not perfected, but rather a skill that is continuously molded as one moves from group to group. Simon Sinek explores the many shapes of leadership by sharing different stories across organizations in his book Leaders Eat Last. Key takeaways from Sinek that have impacted my views of leadership and how I will lead include the ideas of empathy, trust, and collective well-being within an organization.

            As I lead my organization, Carbon Integrations, I foster a sense of friendship and family among my colleagues similar to Sinek’s view of we. When one person takes credit for the collective work of the group and doesn’t recognize the efforts put forth by others, there is a clear sense of separation among each other which has led to conflicts in the past. By shaping an organization around the people and appreciating their work, a sense of ownership is felt by everyone involved in what the organization is trying to do. Inadvertently, I have been implementing Sinek’s “circle of safety”. There is nothing more pleasing than seeing people wear our company’s hats around Baylor’s campus with a sense of pride that they are part of something bigger than themselves and that I had a part in creating it. Sinek’s mantra of protecting “Those to the left of us and those to the right of us” sticks strongly to the way I do and plan to continue to lead.

            When deciding the equity of Carbon Integrations, we ran into heated discussions around the value that each person brought and in turn how much equity they should receive. What at first seemed to be a simple discussion turned into a ruffle between the group. Our circle of safety was penetrated from the inside by some choosing me over we. As a whole, we set aside our differences to work together because we valued each other more than what the potential proceeds of the business would be; however, it opened up my eyes to the need of building a stronger foundation of trust and value within our organization to develop a greater sense of belonging. With this in mind, Sinek shared a story of empathy about Chapmen’s ferlo program that in return led to better well-being inside that organization. I hope to lead an organizational culture where my team members are willing to share days off for the betterment of everyone the way the Chapmen’s employees did.

Further leadership opportunities I have taken from Sinek include working with one of the other members in our management team that leads with an alpha mentality. Sinek shared about celebrities and others who live by similar mindsets of being put in a position of status rather than being elected by the group. When it came to picking management titles, the same individual in my team did not want to share power with anyone. Ultimately, the rest of the team voted for me to be CEO of the organization because of my care for others. I enjoy leading because it gives me the opportunity to help others grow while I grow myself. Leadership is a team skill that it is motivated by oneself but doesn’t hold strong without support from others. This is what Sinek is conveying in Leaders Eat Last when he repeatedly mentions looking out for “those to the left of us and those to the right of us”. A team needs each other in order for anyone in the team to become a successful leader.

NextJump’s philosophy, that Sinek shared, is a type of management style I want to follow. At NextJump, their leader Mr. Kim implemented an employment for life policy. Instead of turnover, NextJump works on improving its team members through education and motivation. I strongly agree with building a business where internal motivations from employees are focused not on wealth but on being part of building something bigger than themselves. On a daily basis, I receive text messages from friends who work within Carbon Integrations asking me to come over to the office and work on something, anything. My team members aren’t focused on monetary gain, but giving their “blood, sweat, and tears” to growing our business because they truly believe we are building something that will impact the world and our lives. Hopefully this mindset has been led by me, but it comes down to individual motivation of our team to want to work towards greatest and self-fulfillment.

Beyond leadership obstacles I run into on a daily basis from external factors, I personally deal with Boardline Personality disorder which affects the chemical make of brain and how I react to situations. Sinek discusses in-depth the need for leaders to gain respect and belonging from their group in order to develop a level of friendship among peers. He analyzes the chemicals in our brain that affect our psychological and sociological make up. When battling with my disorder, I have to balance my serotonin and oxytocin levels closely as to not make rash and emotion driven decisions in my leadership. I need my team as much as they need me because they have developed into a support network beyond just members in our organization. Additionally, almost all the members of Carbon Integrations are also members of Phi Delta Theta which has been another group where I have learned to managed friendship-leadership outside of a work-leadership environment. Leadership is a skill that is used throughout someone’s entire life and is not only a work driven task. Sinek says the primary role of leadership is to look out for those inside their circle. The circle can be anywhere I am a leader. If I want to be a well rounded leader, I need to focus on balancing an environment of well-being throughout my entire day and life. It is also not about doing big things for others that builds trust in leadership, but rather doing a collection of little things all the time that add up to lasting impacts from leaders.

Adding on to juggling all aspects of life, Sinek says that both the workplace and home life are closely related to stress levels and quality of life. He relayed information from the Whitehall Studies that found that the level associated with different responsibilities are not the cause for stress but rather it’s the level of control that people feel they have over their day that determines it. As a leader, I don’t feel a lot of stress because I am supported by team and there is a bond in our circle that gives me the feeling of control over my work. When I do encounter stress, I look to colleagues and friends for support to help regain any loss of control I feel from daily life and work.

In disagreement Sinek, there is a biological reward for doing nothing. Sometimes when I am stressed I feel great reward from doing nothing. Battling personal responsibilities and being responsible for others can be tolling and doing nothing does give me relief. If I am to be the best leader I can be, I need the support from my team members to balance my stress and responsibilities at the same time.

            Brining everything together, leadership is not molded overnight and it is not something that is learned forever. Leadership takes dedication and focus beyond oneself. A leader has to responsibility to ensure safety, happiness, and motivation to their entire circle. Simon Sinek bring to light great tools and case studies in his book Leaders Eat Last, but it is up to each individual to grow, fail, and succeed at being their own leader. For me, I will lead with the ideas of empathy and trust in order to promote the highest levels of well-being and motivation in every circle I have the privilege to lead.