"Leaders Eat Last"
"Leaders Eat Last"
“The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own.”
My team met at the office for the first time in a long time. After our strategy meeting, we were ready for lunch. Delivery was fast, but there was one problem: Someone's food was missing, and it happened to be mine.
"Is this what Simon Sinek meant when he said leaders eat last?" I joked.
It was no big deal. It was funny. But I couldn't stop someone on my team from setting her own food aside and calling the restaurant to say they forgot her boss’s meal. She was determined. And what she said next has stuck with me:
"We work together as a team; we eat together as a team."
When I got home that day, her gesture of empathy and support inspired me to review my notes on Simon's book Leaders Eat Last.
Simon tells the story of Captain Mike Drowley's extraordinary bravery in Afghanistan. The captain flew his aircraft from the safety of high altitude down toward the mountainous terrain, through scattered storms, and in the face of enemy fire to support his team. He risked his life not once but multiple times. When asked why he did it, he responded, "because they would have done it for me."
While the story of my missing lunch obviously pales in comparison to Captain Drowley's life or death situation, there's a parallel message:
When you have someone's back, they'll have your back too.
Indeed, empathy and trust are at the foundation of leadership.
And as a final thought, here’s an excerpt from the foreword of Leaders Eat Last:
"When you are with Marines gathering to eat, you will notice that the most junior are served first and the most senior are served last. When you witness this act, you will also note that no order is given. Marines just do it. At the heart of this very simple action is the Marine Corps' approach to leadership. Marine leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own."
—George J. Flynn, Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)