Our book this month is called “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. Simon shot to fame in the wake of his first TED Talk in 2010 entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. His second TED Talk in 2014 was called “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe”. It’s no surprise this our book this month is also on leadership.

The foreword was written by Lieutenant General George Flynn of the US Marine Corps. The opening paragraph of the Foreword says

“I know of no case study in history that describes an organization that has been managed out of a crisis. Every single one was led. Yet a good number of our educational institutions and training programs today are focused not on developing great leaders but on training effective managers.”

This one opening paragraphs sums up the essence of the book.

In the book, Simon emphasizes the humanity of relations as being essential to leadership.

In the book, Simon emphasizes the humanity of relations as being essential to leadership.

Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter. “It is we, the companies, who are now responsible for these precious lives,”

To see money as subordinate to people and not the other way around is fundamental to creating a culture in which the people naturally pull together to advance the business. If they don’t feel safe in the organization, they turn their energy inwards to fighting internal battles instead of focusing on the threats to the business from the outside. 

As organizations scale, we start to abstract and no longer see people as human.  We are now customers, shareholders, employees, avatars, online profiles, screen names, e-mail addresses and expenses to be tracked. The human being really has gone virtual. Now more than ever, we are trying to work and live, be productive and happy, in a world in which we are strangers to those around us. The problem is, abstraction can be more than bad for our economy . . . it can be quite deadly.

The more abstract people become, the more capable we are of doing them harm.

The Titanic carried as many lifeboats as was required by the law, which was sixteen. The problem was, the Titanic was four times larger than the largest legal classification of ships of the day. The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, the Titanic’s owner, adhered to the outdated regulation (in fact, they actually added four more inflatable rafts). Unfortunately, as we all know, on April 14, 1912, just four days after leaving port on its maiden voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg far from any shoreline. There were not enough lifeboats for everyone and more than 1,500 of the 2,224 passengers and crew on board died as a result. A ship four times bigger than the largest classification carried only a quarter of the lifeboats they actually needed.

In fact, additional space was added aboard the deck of the Titanic in expectation of a “lifeboats for all” requirement. But lifeboats were expensive. They require maintenance and could affect a ship’s stability, so executives at the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company decided not to add the lifeboats until the regulation said they had to. Though there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers on board the Titanic, the company was in full compliance with applicable rules.