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Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Date: Dec 10, 2021
This book covers more than what the title of " Leaders Eat Last" suggests could be included.
Simon Sinek takes you back to the beginning. A time when the chemicals our bodies produced were relevant to our survival. These chemicals gave humans the need and desire to want to form bonds with others for the good of the tribe not just to gain something personally. It gave the hunting group of the tribe the resilience to continue when tired, because they knew if they didn't persevere then the tribe would go hungry. The hunters felt and received the gratitude of the tribe on their return and the exhilaration and elation of achieving what they set out to do.
How these feelings and chemical reactions apply to the current day and how they can be manipulated for the benefit of profits in a company is quite an eye-opening moment and probably something most of us have never considered as taking place.
Simon uses real company examples to demonstrate the reality of these manipulations. Some companies may not even realise that this is happening as it's so cemented in the corporate structures, which have developed over the years, that it seems normal.
In companies where these chemicals in our bodies are used to the effect as they should be, there can be a strong Circle of Safety in the business. Where people trust and share their successes and failures, and what they know and don't know, resulting in Innovation
So, what does this mean and what are these chemicals that drive our reactions?
The four primary chemicals in our bodies that contribute to our feelings and reactions are:
- Serotonin: The Leadership Chemical
- Oxytocin: Chemical Love
- Endorphins: The Runner's High
- Dopamine: An Incentive for Progress
Each serves a very real and practical purpose in our survival. Two primary chemicals in our bodies evolved to help us find food and get things done. The other two are there to help us socialise and cooperate.
Serotonin and Oxytocin incentivise to us to work together and develop feelings of trust and loyalty. These work to help strengthen our social bonds so that we are more likely to work together and to cooperate.
Whether you like to admit it or not, we need each other. That's where Serotonin and Oxytocin come in. They are the backbone of the Circle of Safety.
These two chemicals encourage pro-social behaviour. and help us form bonds of trust and friendship so that we will look out for each other. We will pull together to accomplish much bigger things than if we were to face the world alone These chemicals reward us with the feelings of security, fulfilment, belonging, trust and camaraderie.
If these chemicals don’t work in this manner due to the environment we are in, then our social incentives are inhibited and we become more selfish and aggressive. Leadership falters. Cooperation declines. Stress increases as does paranoia and mistrust.
The less our colleagues and leaders look out for us, the less we look out for them. There is less commitment and we become more selfish. When this happens eventually everyone loses.
If leaders of a company create a culture that inhibits the release of these chemicals, it sabotages our careers, our happiness and the success of the organisation itself. Quite shocking right?
Inside a Circle of Safety, we feel like we belong. This should be the main aim of a leader before anything else, to create this environment inside their company. It is the protection created to keep the company safe from the external factors surrounding them, such as competitors and market volatility.
Endorphins and Dopamine are the reason that we are driven to hunt, gather and achieve. They make us feel good when we find something we're looking for, build something we need or accomplish our goals. These are the chemicals of progress
Endorphins’ mask physical pain, hence, the nickname of the runner's high. It allows you to continue beyond what you thought might be possible.
Dopamine makes us a goal orientated species with a bias for progress. It’s a hit of Dopamine we feel when we get that intense feeling of accomplishment.
However, we do need tangible goals to get these chemical highs. If someone has something specific to set their sights on, something they can measure their progress against, they are more likely to achieve it.
The release of Dopamine could become an addiction. Alcohol and gambling for example release Dopamine. Imagine a company that has created this scenario, with say sales targets. You have your goal. You achieve your goal. You get rewarded. You get your Dopamine hit.
On a very simplistic level you can see how this Me, Myself and I mentality goes totally against the Circle of Safety basis, all down to the chemical craving created for an individual.
Simon gives examples on how companies have been able to instil the Circle of Safety and how it works to the benefit of the employees as well as the growth of the company. He also gives examples of companies where this does not exist and how detrimental it can be to those that work there.
Have you ever noticed how people want to advance the vision of a leader who inspires them and want to undermine someone who tries to control them? This comes down to whether there is a Circle of Safety or not.
I found it a really good read with lots of thought-provoking moments, not only for Troy Accounting and our employees, but also the realisation of why I felt like I did in Companies I've worked in.
I'm sure everyone will take away their own insights from this book based on their own experiences. In my personal opinion this is a 'must read' for every business owner with employees.