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VINE VOICEon January 7, 2014
There are many books on Leadership that have little to say. Sinek's book has both new insights and an inspiring vision.

Sinek begins with biology and outlines the roles of chemicals - specifically Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin - and how evolution has dictated why we generate them and how we respond to them. Endorphins mask pain and help give you a `runner's high' or the intense satisfaction after a tough work out.

Dopamine leads to your `feeling good' upon accomplishing a goal whether that is bringing home dinner while evading sabre-toothed tigers or doing a bang-up job on a major presentation. Think of endorphins and Dopamine as the `individual achievement' chemicals. We need them to excel at what we do.

Serotonin is what gives you a feeling of gratitude and affection for the persons who supported you in your endeavors and the good feeling as they applaud you. Oxytocin is `love' chemical. It gives you the warm fuzzies you get when you hug someone or have a deep meaningful conversation. Think of Serotonin and Oxytocin as the `social' chemicals.

We, as humans, need both the individual achievement and social chemicals to progress. What has happened, unfortunately, in our society is that mores and values have changed to emphasize the former to such an extent that a deadly imbalance has been created. It is truly toxic - your job may be killing you. I used to think this was hyperbole but Sinek presents enough evidence for me to revise this opinion.

Central to Sinek's arguments is the `Circle of Safety'. When a sabre-toothed tiger attacks a herd of buffalos they gather together with their tails touching and horns out. Whichever direction that tiger attacks, it is met with impenetrable defense. This is the circle of safety. We want to feel that there are persons we can trust who will look out for us. Where we can let our guard down and be ourselves.

In such a trusting environment we can focus on doing the best we can and this greatly benefits both us, individually, the company. This feeling of `belonging' is what has disappeared from the corporate workplace to a large extent. It has been replaced by an ethos of `everyone for himself and the Devil take the hindmost'. And, sadly, even the `winners' in this environment are actually losers because of the personal price they pay in terms of insecurity and lack of meaningful relations, not to mention health side effects.

What I found really useful in the book is the way in which Sinek takes concepts from fields such as psychology and shows how they are relevant to what we experience in the workplace. I found these to be penetrating insights and they lead to many `aha' moments as well as to a change in the way I conduct some of my own programs.

For example, take the Milgram experiments. These are some of the best known - and most shocking - experiments in psychology and the implications are truly horrifying. In the early sixties, shortly after the Adolf Eichmann capture, trial and execution, there was a lively debate on whether Nazi collaborators were simply `following orders' or had a sense of responsibility and ownership for what they did.

Yale professor Stanley Milgram devised a series of experiments in which a volunteer was asked to deliver electric shocks to a subject each time he made an `error' in a lesson. Unbeknownst to the volunteer the subject was actually a confederate of the professor and an actor who affected great pain and suffering as the level of electric shocks increased. In reality there were no shocks and no pain but the volunteer did not know this.

When volunteers demurred from administering painful electric shocks the white gowned Milgram told them in various ways that they were required to continue even when they thought that the shocks they were administering were severely harmful to the subject.

The shocking result was that huge numbers of `normal' persons - readily or with mild trepidation - continued to administer potentially lethal shocks to subjects even as they howled with pain and demanded that they be released from the experiment. And this happened simply because they were told to do so by an `authority figure' with no threats or rewards for doing so.

Obviously this has great implications for why dictatorships form and survive and the debate on this continues to this day.

What Sinek points out is that this same experiment is played out in our companies every day at huge human toll. I had never thought of it in these terms before but parallel is exact. Many `managers' willingly take actions that they know will bring hardship and suffering to others - mass layoffs, reductions in benefits, changes in working conditions etc. - simply because they have been directed to do so. Even worse, we have evolved a business `philosophy' where formal directions are no longer necessary - this is simply the way to do things.

Sinek talks about how to bring the balance back in our workplace so both companies and individuals can thrive side by side in a symbiotic relationship. And he gives lots of examples such as the Barry Wehmiller companies where CEO Bob Chapman is dedicated to `building great people who do extraordinary things. And Charlie Kim, CEO of Next Jump who implemented a policy of lifetime employment.

I particularly like his comparison of the results achieved by James Sinegal, CEO of Costco and Jack Welch the much touted former CEO of General Electric. Welch's paradigm of pitting executives against each other created a high stress environment and the gains were short-lived and unsustainable.

In contrast Sinegal built a strong `circle of safety' for his people, paid wages which were nearly double those at Walmart and did many things to engender loyalty and trust. Costco employees are loyal and have built it into the second largest retailer in the country and the growth is both balanced and continuing.

This book will make you think differently about the business systems that prevail in our society and also give you a way to make the workplace more humane.

I hope you join the `Truly Human Leadership" bandwagon set rolling by Bob Chapman, CEO of the Barry Wehmiller companies. Be sure to watch his TEDx talk. Google it to get the URL.
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on January 25, 2014
I previously read "Start With Why" and really enjoyed it. That book helped to completely reframe the way I viewed business and the big picture. I was very excited to get a chance to read this book. Initially, I thought it would give a fuller explaination of how the Marines create greater sensitivity in their leaders. In a way, it did this although actually, the book was much more of a scientific study on the chemistry of management. I think it's interesting how Simon related biological chemicals that we all have to better management. The concept of a Circle of Safety and treating each employee as if you are their second parent is also interesting. I think in particular the end of the book where Simon talks about how the current generation feels entitled to quick success is very enlightening and very true. The ultimate point of the book is that if a leader watches out for their people and commits their whole organization to serve others and each other, everyone wins. It's easier said than done, but it's a very good reminder of the importance of going beyond just chasing financial gain.
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on February 18, 2014
I really tried to give this book a higher rating but just couldn't. While I can't quibble with anything Sinek says, he says nothing that hasn't been said by dozens of other authors. The point of his book: Leaders need to care for others, protect them from harm, provide opportunities for them to grow and develop, create a vision of something to believe in that's larger than themselves, and take an interest--a genuine interest--in the well-being of their followers.

There's a great deal of hand wringing in this book, but almost no "how-to" that can be applied in everyday organizations. He even uses the word "polemic" late in the book as a description of what he's writing. We all know what needs to be done, but very few of us are doing it.

Yes, it was interesting to read about brain chemicals and current brain research. And it was okay to read some of his comparisons between/among companies that see profit as the purpose versus those companies that see profit as a means to greater purpose. The problem is that all of this could have been stated in a pamphlet, rather than a 216-page book. And, just as his TED talk on "Start With Why" offered everything in that book, his 99U video offers everything in this book--in less than 45 minutes.

I recommend lots of books to students in my leadership development classes but, in this case, I'll recommend that the students watch Sinek's videos and save their money.
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on October 21, 2014
I really, really wanted to like this book when I checked it out from my local library, and would have been willing to plunk down the $20 or so if it was a good book I wanted to add to my personal stack. But sadlly, there's not much here that hasn't already been touched on elsewhere in other management books..."Don't just give money, give time", "Put 'we' ahead of 'I'", "Keep your team to a manageable size"...these are the type of tips you can expect to many anecdotal stories of other companies that had success with these worn-out maxims. It's readily apparent that the author is not speaking from personal experience but rather from a viewpoint of academic research.

As for all those five-star ratings, I'm suspicious of whether or not they all have actually read the book, because several of them have only a sentence or two in the comments or even no comments at all. Plus several of them are around the same date period. I'm wondering if perhaps many of these are solicited reviews or even compensated reviews. This is a practice touched on in another book, "The Four Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferriss.

If you're looking for practicals, I'd suggest reading the works of John Maxwell like "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership", and also "It's Not Just Who You Know" by Tommy Spaulding. Both are full of practical, "take-action" suggestions from those who have walked the walk and talked the talk.
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on January 7, 2014
Written by one of the most astute observers of the human condition today, this manifesto makes the case that humans work best when placed in environments similar to those in which we evolved.

Through surveys, scientific research, and stories, Simon Sinek describes the pain many suffer in workplaces. Instead of thriving, we are preoccupied with internal rivalries and distanced from fellow humans by abstraction and scale. The result is our defense mechanisms kick in, and the chemicals released make us more unhelpful, unhappy, and unhealthy.

There is a way out. Understanding that humans biologically evolved to cooperate and that leaders emerged to protect the group, organizations that create environments paralleling those early conditions will bring out the best in us. This means taking steps to avoid the allure of abstraction in modern life by keeping it real and avoiding the perils of scale by keeping team sizes that mimic those of human tribes.

The leader, then, plays a role in service to the group, protecting it from external threats. In short, quoting a Marine Corps general, Leaders Eat Last.

If you work with humans, you'll be delighted and reinvigorated.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 10, 2014
“Leaders Eat Last” written by Simon Sinek is a book about leadership that does not offer any new theories or principles but instead skillfully explains what makes the difference between good and bad leadership and how to help an organization or people that you manage to feel happier and more satisfied.

Before reading the book I wasn’t aware that the Huffington Post has included Sinek’s book into the list of “The 12 Business Books to Read in 2014” (moreover in the first place), but after I read it that doesn’t surprise me because it’s truly a book for everyone who works with people and manage them.

In the book foreword, retired US General George J. Flynn nicely wrote that an organization’s success or failure is based on leadership excellence and not managerial acumen – and this is one of the common situations in business when leadership is equated with management, which, although in many ways are overlapping and complement each other, are not the words that mean the same thing.
For this reason, the author in his book explains why management can’t be enough to sustain any organization in the long run; he explains the human behavior elements that are causing organization to perform well over certain period of time, but lose its breath in the long run, the reason being their people lacking the good leadership.

The author simply defines leadership - it’s an environment where people are important, their thinking matters, where values are shared and together they are passing through the good and bad, knowing that it is all an integral part of every job and life.
In his book Simon Sinek is often referencing to the military examples which is not surprising because in that old human profession the term of leader and the leadership is the most prominent, even though sometimes is not supported by a formal hierarchy - many times happened that in the most difficult times of military conflicts someone leadership managed to raise the morale of those around and the battle that seemed long lost was won.

In “Leaders Eat Last” divided into eight chapters, with significantly last chapter named “Becoming a Leader,” author explained many aspects of leadership, including human biology and different chemicals that occur in our bodies evolved through countless generations forcing us to do things even us sometimes not certain why.
And therefore, if after this book you stop rushing to lunch, letting your colleagues in front to catch the best pieces that will mean you are one step closer to become a leader because they always think of others first, putting their own interest aside to protect us…
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on May 10, 2014
I have read other Sinek books which I found very helpful and challenging. This one seemed to be more history lessons which he tagged with catchy leadership headlines. Honestly the chapter titles are the most helpful things. Just look over the headings and you get the best parts of the book.
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on May 25, 2014
Pros: Sinek sheds light on what many of us have known intuitively but may have never heard articulated recently in a conventional manner- namely that something is wrong with the way the modern business and corporate America pursue profits at the expense of it's employees. He candidly reveals that the very thing lacking is a special kind of leadership among administrators and managers that puts proper emphasis on the inherent value and worth of their employees. Companies are more than P&L spreadsheets. Two pearls Sinek leaves us with early are 1) an observation that within organizations, people desire to be led and not managed and 2) that they perform much better when they believe they are part of a family of sorts in lieu of being a nameless/faceless staff member within a department. Sinek gives a few good examples of how investing in people over the long haul actually makes more business sense than treating them as a liability or a "resource" to be expediently jettisoned whenever the short term would suggest. I particularly appreciated Sinek's description of the modern historical and cultural development of this phenomenon in Part 4 of his book.

Cons: Sinek leans heavily upon an a priori attribution of all human behavioral patterns to neural biochemistry and frequently cites theories of evolutionary development to prop up a 'how we got here from there' anthropological summary, straining at times to create a neo-darwinian narrative. In Sinek's naturalistic world, the only explanations that matter can be boiled down to energy and mass. This would also apply, as well, to the ethical categories of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, or ontological issues like personhood, personality, human dignity, and more importantly- choice. Sineks behavioral explanations assume a naturalistic determinism that undermines the value of the efforts put forth in his book. We get a double-minded message: people are worthy of dignity and should make the right choices but it's all merely a biochemical illusion. Sinek's prescriptions are on the mark but not new. Once can find similar admonishments within pages of Scripture (Do unto others...) as well as the supreme example of servant leadership typified by the atoning sacrifice of the Man from Galilee.

The book is worth buying and reading but I recommend skipping Part 2. Men don't throw themselves on grenades to save the lives of their brothers because the Norepi, Epi, Oxytocin, Serotonin, or Dopamine in their brain told them to.
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on May 3, 2014
It's hard to argue with the basic thesis of this book - that people are more engaged and committed if they are treated as valuable members of a team rather than expendable "human resources", that people give loyalty when they get loyalty, and expect to see their leaders model the principles they espouse.

You can get that much in the first few pages of the book. I was hoping that the rest would be a well-researched source of evidence for this thesis, but unfortunately the rest of the book consists of several theories unsupported by direct references of any kind that I could find. I expect more in a book of this type that the opinion of the author. I was particularly concerned about the foray into neuroscience, unsupported by references, instead of a focus on evidence showing that the principles espoused in the book actually work.
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on January 16, 2014
Leadership is not a licence to do less; it is a responsibility to do more, according to Simon Sinek in this book. Leadership takes work. It takes time and energy. The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.

Interesting statements made by the author include:

• Exceptional organisations have cultures in which the leaders provide cover from above and the people on the ground look out for each other.
• The leaders of great organisations do not see people as a commodity to be managed to help grow the money.
• Work-life balance has nothing to do with the hours we work or the stress we suffer; it has to do with where we feel safe.
• Most people would never get rid of their children during hard times, so how can we lay off our people under the same conditions?
• The leaders of organisations who rise through the ranks not because they want it but because the tribe keeps offering higher status out of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice are the true leaders worthy of our trust and loyalty.

I was somewhat uncomfortable with the author’s tendency to explain human motivation by reference to evolutionary biology and the chemicals dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and cortisol. In a book which argues that leadership is all about empathy and providing a safe and respectful environment in which everyone can thrive, it seems odd that the author apparently reduces humans to mere chemical machines.

In my opinion this book contains an important message which senior leaders of organisations need to read and take to heart, although I expect that very few will be able to read through the book without feeling convicted.
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