May 8, 2014
Book Short: Like Reading a Good Speech
Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek, is a self-described “polemic” that reads like some of the author’s famous TED talks and other speeches in that it’s punchy, full of interesting stories, has some attempted basis in scientific fact like Gladwell, and wanders around a bit. That said, I enjoyed the book, and it hit on a number of themes in which I am a big believer – and it extended and shaped my view on a couple of them.
Sinek’s central concept in the book is the Circle of Safety, which is his way of saying that when people feel safe, they are at their best and healthiest. Applied to workplaces, this isn’t far off from Lencioni’s concept of the trust foundational layer in his outstanding book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team. His stories and examples about the kinds of things that create a Circle of Safety at work (and the kinds of things that destroy them) were very poignant. Some of his points about how leaders set the tone and “eat last,” both literally and figuratively, are solid. But his most interesting vignettes are the ones about how spending time face-to-face in person with people as opposed to virtually are incredibly important aspects of creating trust and bringing humanity to leadership.
My favorite one-liner from the book, which builds on the above point and extends it to a corporate philosophy of people first, customer second, shareholders third (which I have espoused at Return Path for almost 15 years now) is
Customers will never love a company unless employees love it first.
Bottom line: this is a rambly book, but the nuggets of wisdom in it are probably worth the exercise of having to find them and figure out how to connect them (or not connect them).
Thanks to my fellow NYC CEO Seth Besmertnik for giving me this book as well as the links to Sinek’s speeches.