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Leaders Eat Last: Book Discussion

Published: April 29, 2018

Have you ever wondered how civilization got to where it is today? If you’re a Millennial, have you ever wondered why you act the way you do and why you act different than your parents when they were your age? If you’re from the Baby Boomer generation, have you ever wondered why you don’t have much in common with “kids these days”? Simon Sinek in his book Leaders Eat Last, takes us through the journey from ancient civilization to modern day leaders and describes the biological similarities that connect us to our caveman ancestors.

Leaders Eat Last is a great book for those who want to know how leaders think, operate and make decisions. Leaders Eat Last discusses the most important chemicals that make us our brain Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, and Oxytocin. These four chemicals connect us biologically to our greatest ancestors and they are the reason we have leaders in the world today.

The Author

Simon Sinek is an entrepreneur that transparently admits that he has no Ivy League education, or any idea how to build a build a business. What sets Simon apart is that he knows one thing that most people don’t, and that is how to start with WHY. Simon is a British-American author, motivational speaker and successful marketing consultant for those such as Virgin Group founder and visionary Richard Branson. Before starting his business, Sinek Partners, in the United States, Simon lived in Johannesburg, London and Hong Kong.

Simon listed as the third most popular TED talk for his presentation How Great Leaders Inspire Action in 2009 based on his earlier published book Start With WHY.

Simon has published three others including:

Start With WHY: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration

Find Your Why: A practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team

Biology Hold Use Together

Every human being who has ever existed on planet earth is been born with four unique chemicals that make us different from any other life. These chemicals are split into two groups: Selfish Chemicals, and Selfless Chemicals.

Our Selfish chemicals are Endorphins and Dopamine. Without our selfish chemicals we would starve to death. Our selfish chemicals are the reason we are driven to hunt, gather and achieve.

Endorphins, also known as the runner’s high are chemicals commonly released in our bodies when we exercise. Endorphins have one purpose, and that is to mask physical pain. Have you ever gone to the gym and worked harder than you ever have before or run a race and sprinted until you thought your heart was going to explode? For these reasons, our brains release endorphins to mask the physical pain so we can reach our goals.

In ancient civilization, supermarkets were not readily available to meet our hunger needs and shelter was not always as easy as retiring to our rooms to sleep in our comfortable beds. In early tribes, some would hunt for days to make the kill that would provide the whole tribe with a hearty meal, while others would stay behind to build and maintain the shelters. Without Endorphins early civilization would have become extinct.

The other selfish chemical in our brain is Dopamine. Dopamine is the reason for the good feeling when we find something we are looking for or doing something that needs to get done. When you receive a good grade on an exam or finally do that spring cleaning you have been putting off for months, Dopamine is released into our bodies to make us feel good for our accomplishment.

In early civilization Dopamine was particularly important for those hunting for food. Endorphins masked the physical pain when the hunters where tracking an animal but Dopamine gave the hunters that feeling of accomplishment when the animal had been killed. Dopamine is the reason that as human-beings we are inherently goal-orientated. Its why we have to-do lists and why we set short-term and long-term goals. We love the feeling of Dopamine and sometimes become addicted to it. Without Dopamine, we wouldn’t have the motivation to achieve.

It's our selfless chemicals that make us feel valued in society or in a company. Our selfless chemicals are released when we feel like we belong to a certain group, and they motivate us to work together.

Serotonin is the leadership chemical. Serotonin is the feeling of pride, it’s the feeling we get when we feel that others like us and respect us for who we are. Like social mammals such as dolphins or whales, human-beings have a desire to be valued as a member of a particular team or in ancient times, a particular tribe.

Serotonin is our confidence. Do you feel more confident going into a business meeting or getting ready to perform a sales pitch when you know someone is backing you up or more confident when the person with you thinks you’re a failure? I hope you feel more confident when someone values you and believes in you because that is exactly what serotonin is supposed to do.

Has humans, we not only want the feeling of approval and acceptance, but we actually need it to survive. When our bodies don’t naturally produce enough serotonin, we call it “depression”. In the classic TBS series “The Office”, the manager Michael Scott says in an interview:

“Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it's not like a compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.”

Like Michael Scott, without enough serotonin, we lose the feeling of being liked, valued or praised and it's at that point when we lose the ability to accomplish our goals.

The last selfless chemical is Oxytocin. This chemical is most people's favorite chemical because it’s the feeling of trust, friendship or love. Ever wonder why you have someone in your life or had someone in your life that you just don’t trust 100%. You can’t explain why, but your gut feeling just says no. That’s the result of a lack of Oxytocin released in the body when you are around or thinking about that person.

Oxytocin was extremely import in ancient civilization because it held the tribe together. Inherently as human-beings, we accomplish more together than we can alone. That’s why your company hires professional to do team-building activities and why companies have a softball team or have an annual picnic or get-to-togethers. Companies are more successful when the employees feel valued and have a sense of trust amongst each other. Without Oxytocin, you would never feel love, friendship, trust, loyalty or a deep connection to another human being, and without Oxytocin civilization would been unable to survive.

Trust is like Lubrication. It Reduces Friction and Creates Conditions much more Conductive to Performance.

We now know that trust is developed with the selfless chemical Oxytocin, but why do some conditions allow us to trust more than others? According to the Hoover Institute, in the United States today there are, 77,000 clinical psychologists, 192,000 clinical social workers, 105,000 mental health counselors, 50,000 marriage and family therapists, 17,000 nurse psychotherapists and 30,000 life coaches. That’s almost half a million-people working in the United States alone that help us with our problems.

As a civilization we have done something that we thought would make us happy, but in-turn made ourselves miserable and that’s called “abundance”. We have created a society over-using Dopamine to increase our eagerness to feel good and in-turn short-circuited our brains to focusing more about ourselves than that of others.

We can compare society to a car, because both rely on several factors to run smoothly and efficiently. The oil in a car is not the only thing a car need to run, but without it the car will not run smoothly or efficiently and eventually it will not run at all. Society is like a car, and trust is the oil it needs to run smoothly. Take trust out of society and we start see the signs of failure in our companies and families we see it on the news and we see it around the world. Trust is like lubrication. It reduces friction and creates conditions much more conductive to performance.

Friends Matter

Friendships allow us to feel both of our selfless chemicals, acceptance and trust. In society today, most people use the term “BFF” or “Best Friends Forever” to describe the relationship between themselves and another human being. Having a “best friend” or that friend from childhood that you don’t speak to all of the time but when you do it's like nothing has changed is very good for us to have.

Believe it or not in the early 1990’s, the United States congress actually worked well together. Although the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, both parties compromised on a daily basis to please the goals of both the conservative and the liberal agenda.

At the time, it was common practice, for the elected officials to move to Washington with their family. Why would this make a difference? Well, after debating on the Senate floor all day about policies and laws, congressmen and women were seen outside of capitol hill attending their sons and daughters’ sports events or dance recitals or even barbequing together on the weekend. Republicans and Democrats in Washington became more than elected officials, they became friends; and by forming the foundation of trust, congress was able to make decisions and positive impacts for the entire country.

Customers Will Never Love a Company until the Employees Love It First

It has been proven time and time again that customers are more likely to shop at a particular store if the employees love working there. In Leaders Eat Last, Simon makes this point by comparing Sam’s to Costco’s. Both of these stores sell bulk items at a reduced price and require a membership to shop. Both stores sell the same products and have relatively the same layout. So why do customers prefer to shop at Costco’s rather than Sam’s? The answer starts with the CEO.

The co-founder of Costco’s James Sinegal built and ran Costco’s with one vision, to create a culture where employees feel valued. Unlike Costco’s competitors, Sinegal believed that by treating the employees like family, they would in-turn reciprocate with trust and loyalty. Sinegal praised his employees for working together, finding solutions and finding better ways to accomplish tasks. Sinegal also paid Costco employees a higher wage and offered benefits.

As a result, to Costco’s business structure and culture, Costco has a less than 10% turnover year-over-year from hourly employees and their employees pass that love onto their customers. When an employee loves their company, they are more likely to go above and beyond for the customers they serve and that’s why we choose those companies over others.

The Awesome Responsibility of Leadership

Bob Chapman is the CEO of the South Carolina company Barry-Wehmiller, a collection of manufacturing companies Chapman has purchased over a number of years. Chapman believes that running a business like a family. Chapman believes that “every single employee is someone’s son or daughter. Parents work to offer their kids a good life and a good education and to teach them the lessons that will help them grow up to be happy, confident and able to use their talents they were blessed with. Those parents then hand those children over to a company with the hope that the leaders of that company will exercise the same love and care we have.”

As leaders, we have a responsibility to display acts of selflessness to those we work with, just as we would expect our loved ones to show those acts to us. Leadership is the awesome opportunity to teach, learn, inspire and care for the people we work with and we have a responsibility to take that opportunity seriously.

The Challenge

Simon challenges all of us to work together to create a brighter future for those who will follow us. The challenge today is to ignite the selfless chemicals inside of you by showing an act of kindness towards a co-worker of yours or a even a stranger. Changing the world starts with a single act of kindness, and through that single act you will ignite the chemicals inside of your body that will make the world a better place for everyone.

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