Self Help

Ritchie’s Review – Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last

By November 19, 2022No Comments

Hey everybody, Ritchie Yip here talking about Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last.

Last year I picked this up, I liked his previous book, Starting With Why. So, it’s a great book that talks about how to run a team of people and why caring about them and taking care of your team, your tribe, the people under you, is not only good for the team but ultimately good for profitability as well. I don’t want to say that it greatly influenced me on how I run my company because I was already doing a lot of the things that the book talks about, but it just reinforced to me that I was doing the right things.

There’s a lot of other books, there’s a lot of other business leaders, a lot of people that I know that run their businesses differently. I’ve chosen to run my business in a certain way and this book really resonated with me in the sense that it reinforced my leadership style.

In Leaders Eat Last, Sinek talks about having a circle of safety in the sense that people will perform to their optimal level when they feel safe. If they are threatened by you, if they are waking up to the threat that they could be losing their job any day, they will have one foot out the door.

They won’t be invigorated. They won’t be creative.

By ensuring that they are in a safe environment, that their jobs are safe, that you are doing everything possible so that way they are able to go and pay their bills and if they screw up it’s okay. That they can learn from that incident and move forward and actually be a better community, a better business, because we’ve all learned from their mistakes. And if you reinforce that, then everybody feels that they can go explore, make mistakes, fail forward and not be admonished by it.

Sinek talks a lot about empathy in Leaders Eat Last, which is critical to understand what your team is going through. Certainly with me, being a teacher. First and foremost, I define myself as a teacher and being empathic to my students and what they are going through allows me to be the best teacher that I possibly can be.

Understanding their frustration, understanding their fear, their anxiety about learning something new really reinforces my patience. That’s ultimately how I run my team of instructors. It is how I run my company. I understand that teaching can be frustrating and if one of my instructors is frustrated, I get it. I don’t get mad at them. I understand it and we just discuss it in a professional manner. When they get frustrated I allow them to vent to me.

Sinek talks a lot about autonomy in Leaders Eat Last.  He says that it is critical to allow people to make their own decisions and to question you and just be critical thinkers.

I let all my instructors run their classes the way that they want to. Now, I also give them a ton of feedback. I give them a lot of feedback. We problem solve. But I give them free reign. I am not a micromanager. And every single one of our instructors in our two schools, we are all a little different. Everybody is a bit different.

We are similar in the sense that we share common values and a certain sense of morality in the sense of how martial arts are taught, why it’s important to have a strong sense of community in all of our classes, but we are all different people and we have slightly different coaching styles. How we arrange our classes are different. I encourage autonomy amongst my instructors.

I think this is the reason why our team of instructors is just so strong, and why we are so committed to providing an outstanding class and outstanding service to our clientele.

What makes up the bulk of Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last is him talking about all these different drugs that force us to make decisions and force us to do the things that we do, which I thought was very fascinating. I was fascinated by why we do the things that we do. Sometimes it’s not rational. In fact, most of the time it’s not rational.

Sinek talks about serotonin. Serotonin is that sense of pride that we have when we accomplish something, like when we win an award. Or when somebody else wins an award. When your favourite team wins the Superbowl or the Stanley Cup and you feel that engagement. That’s serotonin.

We actually use it in the school, in the sense that we award belts in our jiu-jitsu program. We award belts. We award promotions. Not only does it feel great – I get serotonin by awarding the promotion. The student receiving the award, the person receiving the belt, the promotion, they receive serotonin. It’s a blissful, fuzzy feeling. As well, all the people in attendance – their training partners, their fellow students – also feel serotonin. Sinek talks about serotonin in the book.

He talks about oxytocin, as well. That’s also a warm and fuzz drug. It’s the love drug. When you are in a new relationship with someone and it’s euphoric, that’s oxytocin. Oxytocin also creates or engenders trust. It’s your survival instinct. We want to trust other people. We want to trust our tribe.

Let’s just say we are living as cavemen. We’re living as cavemen and we are living in a small tribe. If I’m going to fall asleep I want to have trust, I want to have oxytocin with you, so that way when I seep you will protect me if a bunch of sabretooth tigers decide to attack us.

Oxytocin exists in my martial arts school. If I have a training partner and I’m going to give you my arm, and I’m going to let you practice your arm bar on this arm. This is my favourite right arm. I use this right arm every single day, but I’m going to let you practice breaking it. I’m actually going to let you do that. Now there’s safety valves, right? We can tap out. I teach that to my students. But I’m going to trust you in practicing breaking my arm as many times as you like. And in return, all that I ask is that you keep my arm safe and that you give me your arm to practice on. We engender that. We try to create that in our student base.

As well, I try to create that amongst my team of instructors. I want a circle of trust, that I’m not just going to keep all the money for myself and I’m going to fire you guys. I need my team, and I want to have this sense of trust. I’m going to do everything I possibly can so that you’re going to have a great job and you are going to be fairly compensated for the work that you do here. So, that’s oxytocin. I thought it was really fascinating how Sinek breaks that down.

Sinek talks about dopamine. That is your instant gratification, that is when you finish a marathon. It’s when you finish that essay. You staid up all night and then boom you hit print on your printer, you finished your essay and you’re super proud of it. That’s your hit of dopamine. It is really primal in the sense that it is a survival instinct. Me hunting down that antelope. It means that I get this surge of dopamine. It’s a high. But also, it means that I’m going to survive. I’m going to be able to eat. We get dopamine when we accomplish a task. When you’re running a marathon sometimes there’s markers along the way.

Where I live, in Vancouver, there’s the Grouse Grind. Basically, it’s a mountain that you just climb. It’s basically this seemingly never ending staircase. But as you climb this staircase up the side of this mountain, there’s little markers that says that you are a quarter of the way done. You’re half of the way done. The half way mark is a big yellow sign. And as you hit the markers, you get this surge of dopamine.

You get a surge of dopamine also when you get a sale. When you get a bonus. That’s how I incentivize my sales team, my instructors, when they make a sale. I give people bonuses. So a little bit of instant gratification is how I run my company. Instant gratification can also mean the belt promotion. It’s very carrot and stick oriented, so it’s very carrot oriented.

The last drug that Sinek talks about in Leaders Eat Last is endorphins. Endorphins are basically a natural painkiller. Sinek describes it as a natural painkiller for the body. You get endorphins when you are working out. When you’re having this great workout, during your workout and after it, you just get this surge of endorphins.

Have you ever been injured? Have you ever been playing rugby or playing basketball and you sprained your ankle and you’re just like, whatever let’s keep on going? And you just keep on going.

Well, even though you sprained your ankle or hurt your knee or whatever, you are able to play through the pain. It’s because you have endorphins surging through your body. It allows you to keep working. If I sprain my ankle, and I’m trying to go and get that antelope, I have this painkiller. I’m running after the antelope; I just keep on going. That way I can eventually hunt down that antelope and feed my tribe of cavemen. It’s a survival instinct.

Sinek does talk about how people can get addicted to endorphins, like endorphin junkies. People who are addicted to dopamine, they are very goal oriented. These are workaholics, people who work all the time because they want that dopamine, they want the endorphin. Gym rats. People who are always working out. People who can’t stop working out. You just want to balance this, right?

You know the old saying – it’s lonely at the top. Certainly this is something that I’m going through. I’m always teaching, I’m always training, I’m always working on the business. Sometimes I’ll talk to a friend, and I’ll realize that the last time I’ve talked to them was a year ago. It seems like that is happening more and more now that the business is just bigger. A main thing for me is to try to find balance in my life. It’s very difficult, and it can be for a lot of people. It’s funny how Sinek says that because it’s something that I’m kind of going through.

Sinek does, at the very end of Leaders Eat Last talk about having a circle of safety. He does a case study about how Costco, which is the second largest retailer I think he says in the book. The second largest retailer in the United States. How Costco really does garner a circle of safety amongst all of their employees. They have great benefits; they are paid well.

He talks about Costco, and then he talks about General Electric, GE and Jack Welsch, running GE. General Electric is a massive company, they make appliances, they do lighting, they own NBC, if you’re a big Saturday Night Live fan. And Jack Welsch, he fired, every single year he fired the lowest ten percent. In the performance metrics that they used in General Electric, if you were the bottom ten percent, he would fire you. What does that create? It creates fear, it creates rabid competition.

Sinek displays their revenues. For Costco, it’s just a slow steady climb. It’s climbing, but it’s very slow. It’s very gradual. It’s very predictable. With General Electric, it’s up and down. They have great years. They have bad years.They have a good year, they have a great year, they have a bad year. It goes up and down. Sinek talks about how – what do you want?

If you were an investor, lets just say you’ve got like $100K just sitting around your living room.  You want to invest it, in either Costco or General Electric. Do you want something that is gradual and predictable, or do you want something that’s just unpredictable and fluctuates a lot? Well you probably want something that’s just a little more constant. He offers this case study to showcase that having a circle of safety is a really strong, profitable way to run your business.

Ultimately, it’s how I run my company. It’s how I run my business, and so far, so good, right? This book just kind of reinforced how it works for me and how it works for my company.

So, Simon Sinek, I’ve been pronouncing it in two different ways during this video, but regardless, Leaders Eat Last is a great book, be sure to check it out.

Ritchie Yip

Ritchie Yip

Ritchie Yip is the Head Instructor for InFighting Training Centers located in Downtown Vancouver and Brentwood Burnaby. InFighting Training Centers offers programs in Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bootcamp Conditioning Classes and Personal Training

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Ritchie Yip

Ritchie Yip is a life long martial artist, BJJ Black Belt, and the head instructor of the InFighting Martial Arts Gym in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.