Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Part 4 – How We Got Here

  • 11. The Boom Before the Bust: Here we get a bit of history from the end of World War I to the beginning of the baby boom era that started after World War II. Unlike their parents, the boomers didn’t know hard times like the Depression. In general, they were more concerned about their own happiness than pulling together like their parents did to win the war.
  • 12. The Boomers All Grown Up: It seems that the more we have the less we share. As companies grow larger the people they serve become more abstract. Generally, leaders do everything they can to increase profit as long as they follow the law, and some don’t even do that. Once people become an abstraction you are less likely to care about them.

Part 5 – The Abstract Challenge

  • 13. Abstraction Kills: Here we have the story of how many German people were complicit in the Holocaust. When asked they often said, “I was only following orders.” Once again, the physical separation between us and those on the receiving end of our decisions makes others more abstract and as they become more abstract the more capable we are of doing harm.
  • 14. Modern Abstraction: Anything that separates us from the impact our words and actions have on others can lead us down a dangerous path. This can cause companies to put profit ahead of moral responsibilities. The Titanic, for example, only carried enough lifeboats for about a third of the passengers, which conformed with the law at the time. When leaders care for people instead of numbers, then people will follow.
  • 15. Managing Abstraction: When numbers represent people they lose their connection and our ability to empathize starts to falter. People are more likely to bully online as social media is not effective in building strong bonds. When organizations grow beyond 150 people relationships weaken as do results. Giving of one’s time and energy to employees has more impact than giving money. We are more motivated and inspired when we know we are helping others.
  • 16. Imbalance: Destructive abundance is the result of an imbalance in the possession of life’s necessities as selfish pursuits that are out of balance with selfless pursuits. It’s when we protect the results above those who produce the results. People then become a commodity to be managed.

Part 6 – Destructive Abundance

  • 17. Leadership Lesson 1: So Goes the Culture, So Goes the Company: In a weak culture people veer from doing the right thing to doing what is good for them. Strong cultures are just the opposite. They are places where respect and empathy are valued over personal advancement. In week cultures people hoard ideas and knowledge. In strong cultures, people share ideas and information. People are rewarded for helping each other.
  • 18. Leadership Lesson 2: So Goes the Leader, So Goes the Culture: Leaders are responsible for the culture to a great extent as they set the tone in an organization. Leaders who focus on their own wealth and power take on the attributes of tyrants. When the leader is wrong in a top-down culture everyone goes off a cliff. Leaders should give employees responsibility, hold them accountable, provide direction, and offer protection. The people actually doing the work should be empowered to make decisions. Provide direction and intent and let others figure out what to do. Powerful organizations and leaders are the ones who transfer more energy to people doing the job.
  • 19. Leadership Lesson 3: Integrity Matters – The Foxhole Test: For the Marines, leadership is a matter of character, not just strength, intelligence, or achievement. For them, trust and integrity are matters of life and death. Trust starts with always telling the truth, and spin isn’t part of truth-telling. Trust evolves as you experience more truth coming from someone. It is key that you admit when you falter. Hypocrites, liars, and self-interested leaders create cultures filled with the same kind of people.
  • 20. Leadership Lesson 4: Friends Matter – To Win or to Serve: The focus here is on the importance of getting to know people you will be negotiating with. If you do, you are more likely to get things done even if you don’t agree to a great extent. The poster child for dysfunction due to people not knowing each other is the US Congress. Unlike earlier times prior to the 1990s, people in congress spend at least half of their time raising money so they can get reelected and almost no time getting to know their rivals as real people. (Things have gotten worse since this book was published in 2012.)
  • 21. Leadership Lesson 5: Lead the People, Not the Numbers – Neutron Jack: Here we see the contrast between leaders focused on share price and those with long term views. Jack Welch, CEO of GE from 1981 to 2001, is famous for firing the bottom 10% of his managers each year. This tends to pit employees against each other. Cosco, run by James Sinegal, only uses layoffs as a last resort. Employees are treated like family and given raises when times are bad. Most managers started as cashiers and the average worker makes $20 an hour. When leaders distribute power the strength of the company is less dependent on one person. There is also the story of British Petroleum and how the focus on quarterly profit created a culture where safety was not a big concern. This lead to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
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