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Book Summary – Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Leaders Eat Last - Book summary

Leadership isn’t just about managing numbers. It’s about helping people to thrive and find meaning in their work. When leaders take care of their people, the numbers will take care of themselves. Unfortunately, many leaders and organizations seem to have lost sight of this fundamental truth. In this book, Simon Sinek explains where we’ve gone wrong and puts out an urgent call for real leaders to step forth to make a positive difference. In this free Leaders Eat Last summary, we’ll explain the human need for safety, why we’ve become so dangerously out of balanced, and how you can become a true leader.

Leaders Eat Last: An Overview

A company’s biggest strength doesn’t lie in its products/services. It always lies in its people—in their ability to cooperate closely and rally behind the organization, especially during a crisis.

However, loyalty and commitment must be earned. Today, work has become a contractual, transactional relationship in many organizations. Intense competition and layoffs are the norm. Hardly anyone believes in loyalty to a company anymore, much less lifetime employment.

What does it take for leaders to inspire true loyalty and outstanding results? We’ll briefly outline the key ideas in this article. Do get our complete Leaders Eat Last summary for more details.

The Human Need for Safety

Humans beings have thrived as a species because of our ability to create, invent, plan, and organize ourselves in complex ways. Our survival hinges on our ability to operate in social groups. During prehistoric ages, humans depended on their tribes for food, shelter and protection. Even though our environments and organizations have changed drastically, our biological makeup still remains similar.

The 4 Chemicals (E.D.S.O.)

Each of us is an individual and a part of social groups. We make daily decisions that require us to weigh our self-interests against group interests. This dilemma also happens in our bodies via 4 key chemicals:

  • Endorphins and dopamine drive us to satisfy our personal needs, e.g. to find food/shelter, develop solutions and persevere through problems. They help us to get things done so we can survive.
  • Serotonin and oxytocin encourage us to work together with others. They build feelings of trust, camaraderie and loyalty, strengthen our social bonds and increase our inclination to cooperate with others to achieve what we can’t on our own.

Leaders Eat Last summary_being in balance

The 4 chemicals are Nature’s way to help us survive, by balancing our personal drive and social needs. In our full book summary, you can get more details about each of the E.D.S.O chemicals and their effects, as well as that of the stress-related hormone Cortisol.

Circles of Safety

Traditionally, our family provides a Circle of Safety where we feel safe and supported. Inside the circle, we have a healthy balance of E.D.S.O. and low Cortisol levels. In organizations, Circles of Safety provide people with a sense of belonging and security. People feel valued and cared for, and trust that others will act in their interests. This facilitates communication, cooperation, problem-solving and innovation, allowing people to direct their attention to external threats and opportunities.  By contrast, when people feel threatened by internal politics and infighting, they turn their attention inward to focus on self-preservation, making the group more vulnerable as a whole.

Leaders Eat Last summary_Circles of Safety

Hiring someone should be like adding a new member to your family. You must set stringent standards for the type of people you’ll accept. Once they’re a part of the family, you don’t simply kick them out when the going gets tough. You must give loyalty to earn loyalty.  The 4 chemicals are Nature’s way to help us survive, by balancing our personal drive and social needs. In our full Leaders Eat Last summary, we share more insights and examples about (i) circles of safety, (ii) the role of leadership, and (iii) how these relate to trust, rules and culture.

Fundamentally, leaders must earn others’ respect and loyalty by making the most sacrifices and being willing to eat last. They must give trust to earn trust.

A Society that’s Out of Balance

Each of the 4 E.D.S.O. chemicals play important roles in our survival. When they’re in balance, people thrive the way they’re designed to, and their groups/organizations thrive too. Unfortunately, the modern workplace tends to be flooded with Cortisol and dopamine-addiction. We lack Circles of Safety and have become dangerously imbalanced.

How did we get here?  In our full 15-page book summary, we’ll examine 3 related factors:

  • Abstraction and Dehumanization: how global systems, virtual interactions and management via numbers/metrics can be dangerous and lead to irresponsible or even monstrous acts.
  • Destructive Abundance: how humans respond to scarcity vs surplus, and why/how leaders have become so blinded by commercial interest that they’ve forgotten who they’re supposed to serve.
  • Social Changes: how our societal values and norms have changed with the post-WWII Boomer Generation, followed by Gen-Xers and Gen-Ys, to become increasingly dopamine-addicted and imbalanced.

Simon Sinek helps us to see the disturbing dynamics that have come to dominate our modern society, how these could lead to increasingly irresponsible, selfish and short-sighted actions that eventually hurt both individuals, organizations and societies alike.

Becoming a Leader

Our younger generation (Gen Y) grew up with abstraction, abundance and a bias toward individualism. They’re used to relying on social media, online support groups and drugs to cope with problems.  Many of them don’t even know how to build the deep, trusting human connections needed for their survival and well-being. People are feeling increasingly isolated; suicide rates in America have risen so sharply that more people are now dying of suicides than car accidents.

More than ever, we need leaders to create Circles of Safety and positive, fulfilling work environments. In the full Leader Eat Last summary, we explain how to become the leader we wish we had. This includes insights, examples and tips on:

  • Understanding 5 key leadership lessons for building strong organizations
  • Overcoming abstraction (and creating human connections) with 5 rules
  • How true leaders can provide meaning, give people the strength to endure hardships, and the environment where we can thrive individually and in groups—exactly the way we were designed to.

Getting the Most from Leaders Eat Last

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 15-page text summary, and a 27-minute audio summary.Leaders Eat Last summary - book summary bundle

This is not a “how-to” book about leadership techniques, but one that offers a fundamentally different perspective and approach to leadership. Simon Sinek offers many detailed examples and stories of leaders in all walks from the military to politics and businesses. You can purchase the book here for the full details, or check out more details at

Want more of Simon Sinek? Check out our Start with Why summary here!

Or, hone your leadership skills with our pick of the best leadership books!

About the Author of Leaders Eat Last

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t is written by Simon Sinek–an American author, speaker, and consultant who writes on leadership and management. Sinek was born in the United Kingdom and lived in several countries before settling in the United States. He received a BA in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University. Sinek is also an instructor of strategic communications at Columbia University, an adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation, and the founder of Optimism Press.

Leaders Eat Last Quotes

“Our intelligence gives us ideas and instructions. But it is our ability to cooperate that actually helps us get those things done.”

“Stress and anxiety at work have less to do with the work we do and more to do with weak management and leadership.”

“Being a leader is like being a parent, and the company is like a new family to join.”

“Cooperation and mutual aid work better than competition and rugged individualism.”

“To earn the trust of people, the leaders of an organization must first treat them like people. To earn trust, he must extend trust.”

“We are not victims of our situation. We are the architects of it.”

Just as money can’t buy love, the Internet can’t buy deep, trusting relationships.”

“Responsibility is not doing as we are told, that’s obedience. Responsibility is doing what is right.”

“Leadership is about integrity, honesty and accountability. All components of trust.”

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

Click here to download the Leaders Eat Last summary & infographic

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