Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. – from Leaders Eat Last
In Leaders Eat Last Simon Sinek details the importance of leaders being focused on their employees. The title is referring to a practice in the Marine Corps where the lower ranks eat first and then the highest ranks eat last. This is a symbolic gesture of how leaders must sacrifice for their crew. No where is this more important than in the military where people’s lives are on the line and trust is very important.
Circle of Safety
Sinek starts out the first chapter with a gripping story of Captain Mike Drowley, who is know by his call sign of Johnny Bravo. He fly’s an old airplane called the A-10 “Warthog”. He was on a night mission over Afghanistan to provide troops support for a special forces unit in the area. The troops got surrounded by enemy fire under a cloudy sky in a valley. Captain Mike, using his night vision goggles, had to perform a treacherous maneuver called a “weather letdown”. He had to fly down through some thick clouds and fire at the enemy to give the troops the support they need and then pull up almost immediately before crashing into a mountain. He had to do this numerous times before they had an opportunity to get free, all twenty-two men.
Later on after the flight is complete they talk to Johnny Bravo and ask him why did he risk his life for these men. His answer points to what Sinek calls the Circle of Safety. Johnny Bravo insists they would have done the same for him, so he needed to help them out of the situation. This points to the great trust these military personnel have for each other.
Sinek uses an interesting comparison of leaders in the closing parts of his book. He compares the much celebrated Jack Welch from General Electric to James Sinegal from Costco. Their leadership styles are very different. Jack Welch is famous for implementing “Stack ranking” at GE where each year you fire the bottom 10%. This caused people to be driven to make themselves look good in spite of the business performance.
Sinegal went against the conventional wisdom in retail and kept his people well paid. This made Costco turnover much lower than many of their competitors. Workers were praised for finding solutions and better ways of doing things. The stock performance is the big proof that Sinek points to. Comparing the two stocks from January 1986 to October 2013, the share of Costco came out ahead even though General Electric was once far ahead it crashed and never recovered.