Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last

Coincidentally I read this book in 30 page chunks, after work, after 45 minutes of running, and then after dinner. (There is no parallel between the title and me eating dinner.) Simon Sinek was first introduced to me via Youtube. I was in a momentary phase of watching motivational videos and I think it was a Ted Talk where Sinek gave a condensed version of this book for an audience of military personnel. I had no intention of pursuing his ideas further until his book was considered for this years Wildland Fire Readers Challenge.

I believe what the author is trying to illustrate is that great leaders understand the importance of sharing and connecting, they know that if their people feel safe and inside the program, they’ll feel more capable of investing their creativity and initiative back. And the more one belongs, the more of themselves they give to others, for the idea of what is possible. One of the examples Sinek Uses is the Co-Founder of Costco. What Sinegal did( his name sounds like a cigarette company) was create and foster an environment where people belonged, and were promoted from within. Rather than cutting back wages and benefits to meet the shareholder projections, they continued to increase, in spite of outside suggestions to do otherwise.

Being part of a large beaurocratic organization can be disconcerting. It often feels like everybody is for a large part looking out for themselves. I catch myself doing it. I want to advance within the organization, move up, take on more responsibility, make more money etc. So I send my bullshit catcher out. Imagine like a screen for a window that catches all the side talk at work about other people, who is taking what job, who has what task book open, who fucked up, who broke something, who is getting shit-canned, who told who to go take a flying -you-know-what at the moon. I send this thing out and am left to sift through it, pulling bullshit apart from other bullshit, trying to make sense of it all. All of this stuff looks like a cluster, but it honestly is how this beaurocratic organization functions a large majority of the time. And this is true breeding grounds for leaders who are more motivated by being endowed with power than actually creating a vision worth following. Sinek says “The more attention leaders focus on their own wealth or power, they stop acting like leaders and start taking on the attributes of tyrants.” We all want attention, to belong to something, to have a say in something meaningful. A leader who doesn’t recognize this and focuses primarily on being a power-sieve will never lead a great team.

In leaders Eat Last Sinek mentions David Marquet, the nuclear submarine captain of the Santa Fe. I was familiar with Marquet’s time with the Santa Fe because I listened to his audiobook. Marquetes big success aboard the Santa Fe, by turning the ship around from poor performance to being ranked number one, was due to eliminating the power-sieve. The command-control style of operating is the epitome of the power sieve. Imagine a big bald head looking over a bland bowl of spaghetti. This bald head is accompanied by a bottle of parmesan. The bald head is our leader, and our power and responsibility is the cheese. We just want enough cheese to feel like we have a tasty meal. But the bald head doesn’t care about the taste of the dish, how it looks or you, the person who is actually going to digest it. Instead, this bald real SOB just enjoys the feeling of having parmesan cheese in their hands. Soon enough they’ll be seen robbing Safeway, parmesan bottles falling from their pockets. This is command-control in dimly lit circumstances. What Marquette did was hand the parmesan over. Instead of waiting to be asked for parmesan, Marquette just handed the fucking thing over, delegated, said do what you will. Leader-Leader.


At the close of the book, the author asks the reader to pass the book along if it inspired you. Last week, first week on my new permanent job, I gave each of the overhead on my crew a book from this years readers challenge, so I feel somewhat hesitant to hand away another book. But what really am I holding on to that can’t be given way, for the sake of the team?

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One Comment

  1. Riva

    I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek. I remember hearing that during the shuttle crash down in Texas the strike team leaders slept inside and the crews slept outside in the rain and the mud. That killed me to hear that. Who thought that was a good idea? You gotta put your folks first, or at least sleep in the mud with them if you can’t.

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