Recently I read "Leaders at last", the latest book of Simon Sinek (he summarized the book nicely in a TED presentation). I read the book for Managementboek.nl and they published my review, which I have translated to the English below.
What is the biggest take away for me from this book? Mostly how important trust is and that we can't be reminded of that enough! Here is the summary of the book, as posted in Dutch on Managementboek.nl:
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
These are questions that Simon Sinek poses himself after he saw examples in the Marine Corps of combators who help their colleagues while risking their own lives. Why would they do that? The reaction is always the same: "They would do the same for me". What makes the military world different (if it is)? Basically, the military world has a culture where leaders protect from above and people on the ground care for each other.
Empathy and trust; those are the core elements of a protective culture, as Sinek observed it in the Marine Corps. Trust is not an order ("Trust me!"), but something leaders have to build up. In the corporate world, trust is often lacking because employees feel that leaders only care about their own gains. Unfortunately, there are too many example that confirm this feeling.
To create trust, leaders need to listen to what people in the team are saying. Really listen. And show understanding for what they hear. Empathy towards the people. Good leaders create a so-called "Circle of Safety" - an environment in which team members feel safe and valued. This Circle works two directions: employees who feel that their leaders care for them, will care for their leaders. A good example of such "Circle of Safety" is the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) that has created a feeling of trust with its members. Members can tell their experiences without being judged and they know there will be support when they need it.
Sinek makes a comparison between leadership and parenthood. Would you show your child the door because it came home with disappointing grades? Of course not. Then why do companies so easily remove their less performin employees. A company should be considered more of a family and help to improve the less performing employee. Only then trust can be built.
Trust is human and far from abstract. For many companies, numbers have become most important, often under pressure of stakehodlers. Abstraction, seeing people as numbers, makes leaders insensitive. It is easier to let go of a certain percentage of employees than Tom, Dick and Harry. Good leaders make the effort to get to know the people in their teams. They will feel more responsible for individuals with whom they have formed a bond. A culture of trust starts with the leaders. When they lead by example, the employees will follow and copy their behaviour - not the other way around. The ingredients for good leadership are: integrety, honesty and feeling for responsibility. These are the same ingredients for trust, which is not a coincidence.
"Leaders eat last" doesn't contain much news, especially for a reader who already read many books about leadership. Sinek takes off with an interesting question and good stories. Unfortunately towards the end the story fades. The lessons learned don't add a lot to the book. The main contribution with this book is that Simon Sined demonstrates that things can be differently in a team, organization, starting with the leaders. Let this book be a mirror for leaders!