In his most recent book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek has based the title on a practice of the US Marines. When gathered to eat, the most junior members of the group are first in line, while senior leadership waits until everyone else has been served.
The book is, in my view a must read. But here is a timely taste.
The premise is that leaders place the needs, concerns and well-being of others above any self interest, thereby earning the kind of trust that inspires a group to follow — even into the heat of battle.
If you’ve known a real leader, you’ve experienced this brand of inspiration.
Leadership is not about access. It does not flaunt privilege. It is not the automatic byproduct of title or rank. It is something one earns over time.
Sure — some titles come with a nice office and access to a platform; but turn the platform into a pulpit with empty rhetoric or self promotion, and don’t expect to grow the ranks of those willing to sign up for the mission you wish to lead.
Leaders are not consumed by a need for acceptance or accolades. Solutions, ideas, constructive dialogue — this is the stuff of a leader’s focus.
If we’re constantly lobbying for a seat at the table, wishing for the acknowledgement we deserve, entangled in debates that are far from mission critical…it is worth asking whether we’re modeling leadership. Is our dialogue about personal agenda and advancement? Or is it focused on the needs and critical interests of those we aspire to influence?
One can have a seat at the table, own a title for a season, or even post up on a bully pulpit and demand action. But this is not leadership.
A leader inspires conversations that matter, dialogue that is about solution, changes that endure, and a legacy we can be proud to leave behind.
What does leadership look like? This is from Sinek’s book:
Leaders are the ones who run head-first into the unknown.They rush towards the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours; and they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs.
This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, head-first into the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them, and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life. And proudly call ourselves their followers. — Simon SInek.