leaders eat last

This summer, I had the opportunity to read the book, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. Earlier this year, I showed my staff one of Simon’s Ted Talk, “Start with the Why”. Every time I read something from Sinek, I am inspired to self-reflect as a leader. If you are looking for a great leadership book with practical leadership tips from the business world to education to the military, then this book is for you.

For me, the following leadership tips are powerful examples of what I could/should/continue to be doing as a leader (they are in no particular order!).

  1. Treat People Like People

I once heard someone share that the higher you go up in leadership, the harder it is to remember your why. I heard this statement when I was a teacher and I was confused as to why this might be the case. For me, my why has always been to help kids learn and grow. Sinek in his book, shares that many times leaders forget to treat people like people. Sinek’s recommendation, although simple, is imperative for anyone leading, “Every single employee is someone’s son or someone’s daughter.” When I read this I not only think of the staff in my building but also students. EVERYONE belongs to someone.

2. Create a Common Cause 

This coming school year, our school is beginning the relaunch of our mission + vision (click here if you would like to see it!). Our mission + vision was developed with the input of staff, students and the community. As we set out to reflect on why we exist as a school (mission) and where to want to go (vision) we rallied together to focus on a common cause: create belief statements that reflected our life’s work. Sinek provides multiple examples of effective leadership that is centered around creating a common cause. Sinek encourages leaders to not only create a common cause but know the people that are working on living out the cause. Everyone wants to believe that what they are doing within their organization matters as well as who they are as a person.

3. Leadership sets the tone of the culture

Sinek is not the only writer who has recently written about culture. Most recently, a former educator, now writer and speaker, Jimmy Casas wrote the book Culturize. Both Sinek and Casas state that leaders who create a culture in which everyone knows that they are responsible for the positive (or negative) culture that is created, the organization will go further than if the leader tried to create a positive culture alone. When people within an organization feel a sense of responsibility to live out the mission + vision in creating a positive culture, the organization will be known to others as a place where people want work and be a part of a culture that cares about those within the organization.

4. Leadership is a matter of character 

Multiple times in his book, Sinek refers to the Marine Corps as a model of excellent leadership. As a sister of a long-time Marine, I am always eager to learn more about the Marine Corps and how they have been able so successful. Sinek highlights three key values that the Marines carry out daily: leaders eat last, leaders lead with integrity and leaders always put people first. As I reflected on these three values this summer, I realized that I could demonstrate even more in my life as a leader people first, by changing where I park. At my school, we don’t have assigned parking spots, but for the past year, I parked near the front of the parking lot. All last year, my staff would often leave this parking spot “open” if I arrived after them. I found that interesting that they were paying attention to where I parked. As I read the book Leaders Eat Last this summer, and reflecting on what I could do to continue to live out the message that I am here to serve others, I realized, I needed to park somewhere else: the back of the parking lot. Within a few weeks of making this change, one of my staff members said that they noticed that I was parking in the back of the lot. They asked why and what changed. I shared with them my personal reflection to live out what I believe in all areas of my life. They shared that they have only known one other leader to do this. To me, this was a powerful reminder to pay attention to everything that I do, even the “small things”.

5. Redefine struggle

Within the past 5 years, educators have learned a lot from leading researcher Carol Dweck about growth mindset. Jo Boheler, a researcher from Stanford University, has also studied growth mindset and struggle. Bohler concluded that without a growth mindset and struggle existing, one does not learn and retain what is learned as deeply when one does not struggle to accomplish a task. Sinek provides multiple examples in his book from Apple to Microsoft that illustrate that within the business world, successful organizations that create an environment where the people believe in the mission + vision and they are tasked with a challenge (and those within the organization know that is expected that they struggle), they will outperform and create solutions that are far greater than what other organizations could do.

Regardless if you are a leader, parent, educator, business owner, community member, stay at home parent or anything in between, give this book a read. I know the book is available as an e-book, audible or in print; it is worth the money, time and reflection. As Simon says in his last page, “Inspire on!”


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