Leaders Eat Last – at least the good ones do

After some of the events of the last few weeks, I was considering a follow-up post to the one I wrote called “Organizations tend to take on the personality of its leaders.” A link to this post is provided below.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/organizations-tend-to-take-on-the-personality-of-its-leader/

Yet, today on CBS Good Morning, Simon Sinek was interviewed about his new book “Leaders Eat Last.” He also talked about his observations on a TED Talk which can be accessed below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4. Sinek said true leaders seek to gain consensus with their teammates in the mission and empower them to pursue that mission. He uses the example in the military, where the troops line up in a mess hall or tent with the junior members first and the leaders last in line. This is not written anywhere, but the military leaders recognize the troops doing the heavy lifting should eat first.

I love this analogy and equate it to another belief that true leaders deflect credit to others. If you test this with your own leaders and management, note the ones who take credit for ideas and results, versus the ones who brag on their team and team members. In my experience, the ones who deflect credit are the ones for whom people would prefer to work. The ones who take credit are more about “what’s in it for me?” Sinek’s thesis, which I wholeheartedly agree with, is if you win the hearts and minds of your team, they will serve a greater purpose, collaborate more readily and the organization will benefit.

I felt empowered to write about leadership based on some recent events. First, while I have been a fan of Governor Chris Christie for his get-it-done mentality and working in a bipartisan manner, I must confess disappointment about the news of the machinations in his state. The story which has been confirmed is his lieutenants ordered the closing of lanes across a bridge in retribution for a mayor not supporting him last fall in the election. Christie has denied all knowledge of this and fired the miscreants. As I noted in the above post, organizations tend to take on the personality of its leaders, so while he may not have sanctioned this closure, he apparently has created an environment where his subordinates felt it was OK to do this.

Second, Tom Perkins, a venture capitalist has equated the “war on the rich” by progressives as akin to what the Nazis did to the Jews. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/venture-capitalist-says-war-on-the-rich-is-like-nazi-germanys-war-on-the-jews/283347/

Really? I wrote a post a few weeks back about how people should not equate things they do not agree with to atrocities such as Apartheid, Nazism or terrorism. It is an insult to people who died at the hands of the demons and those who died trying to stop the demons. I also noted that making this equation is either deceptive or showing someone’s ignorance. In my view, they are trying to inflame a less informed audience that this issue they disagree with or the people behind it are evil.

In Davos last week, the global poverty problem was discussed. This week, the President will highlight the poverty problem which is pronounced in our own country. But, just to show how much disparity there is in our country versus the others in terms that Mr. Perkins might understand, in the US, the average CEO pay is roughly 354 times that of the average worker. In other capitalistic countries, the ratio is around 12 to 1. I have worked with a number of CEOs in the US and I can assure you, even the good ones are not worth 30 times more than their European counterparts relative to their workers.

Sinek noted the example of a US employer who decided not to cut anyone during the recession. The owner said we all must suffer a little, so that no one will take the brunt of the downturn. So, every employee from CEO on down was required to take a four week, unpaid furlough at any time they wanted. The employees responded well to this. Note, I have read of a similar example in Germany. This is leadership at its finest. These employees will be more loyal to their company and team members than in other places.

Our US and global citizens and employees of various organizations are crying out for leadership. They want leadership who will support their efforts. Leaders who do well for their organizations (note I did not say for themselves), are empowering and share credit to others. They probably eat last as well.