Leaders Eat Last Summary - Healthy Performance Culture

5 Minute Summary… Leaders Eat Last

Leaders Eat Last

Authors – Simon Senak

Publication Date – January 2014

Links to Buy –  US Amazon, Europe Amazon


Leaders Eat Last Summary

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Leaders Eat Last Summary

Why YOU should read this book

The level of engagement in a team is one of the most important success criterias for a leader.  Countless studies have shown that higher engagement has significant positive outcomes for employees and businesses.  Here are some of my favorite:

If you can only focus on 1 thing as a leader, building an engaged workforce is it. It is for this reason that so many books have been written about employee engagement, but in truth many aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.  Leaders Eat Last is different.  In my mind this is one of the few books on employee engagement that everyone should read.

Leaders Eat Last Summary

Key Takeaways

There are too many lessons in Leaders Eat Last to capture in this one post.  That being said, here are a few of the critical takeaways you will learn about if you read Leaders Eat Last.


  • Circle of Safety – Engagement is founded on feeling safe.  If we don’t feel safe, then we feel insecure, anxious, or angry.  In today’s environment, there are a lot of factors that create feelings of insecurity: pressure from competitors, changing technologies, cultural issues, deadlines, or personal problems.  It is the responsibility of the leader to provide an environment in which employees feel secure and happy. A so-called ‘Circle of safety’.


  • People Over Profit –  Too many companies view people more like lemons.  The harder they squeeze the more juice they can get.  Leaders Eat Last makes a great argument that sacrificing short term profits for employee engagement is better in the long run then sacrificing employee engagement to get a quarterly bump on your balance sheet.  Sure you might get a little more profit now, but in the long term all the research shows that engaged workers lead to higher profitability.


  • Empowerment – There are only so many hours in the day, and no leader can do it alone.  In fact, at the core definition of being a leader is that you need to lead people.  If you are trying to do everything on your own, you will just fail.  For a business to truly succeed, leaders must give away some of their power. Without the mandate to exercise judgment and act when appropriate, staff simply cannot work effectively. Furthermore, employees who feel empowered will work harder and feel happier in their jobs.


  • Inspiration – There are two types of leaders.  Those who are leaders based on their job title & formal authority, and there are leaders that people follow because they choose to follow.  It shouldn’t surprise you that the second type of leaders build the highest engagement.  That is why you need to focus more on inspiring people, and less on relying on “I’m telling you to” kind of authority.


  • Trust – Customers buy from companies they trust. Workers are loyal to their employers for the same reason, and hence trust is paramount for effective leadership.  As a leader it is your responsibility to build trust within your team, but also to advocate that same level of trust building across the broader organization.  Take care of your people, and they will take care of you.

Leaders Eat Last Summary

How YOU can apply the key takeaway

Circle of Safety – A circle of safety is not something you can create in 1 day, it takes time to build.  But at the same time, a leader can destroy a circle of safety in 1 minute.  We recommend that leaders start building their circle of safety amongst their people by adopting a curious mindset and being interested in their ideas and perspectives.  It is also important to build this safe culture within your team, and to do that we recommend running a 4 Questions exercise with your team.  


People Over Profit – This mindset is tough to implement as an individual leader.  It is something that has to be shared by the leadership team and across the company.  We recommend including engagement and the current mood of the employee population is all leader discussions, even at the board level.  


EmpowermentWe are big believers of empowerment, and have written about it several times.  Our biggest trick to helping leaders with empowerment is to think about yourself.  Do you want your boss micromanaging you, or do you want to be able to shape your own goals and be empowered to find the best actions to achieve those goals?  Most of you want empowerment for yourselves.  So remember that when you are setting goals or managing the performance of your employees.  Treat them the way you want to be treated.


Inspiration – One of the best ways to inspire people is to focus on purpose.  People don’t want to be told WHAT to do.  They want to see how their work ties to the larger mission of the organization.  Ultimately, they want to be told WHY their role is important.


Trust – A successful team is built off strong relationships, and there is no way you can succeed if your colleagues do not trust each other. Build your trust by how you relate to people (sensitive trust) and by having a proven track record (sensible trust).  You can also improve your trust by pulling the different levers of the trust equation.   Without the trust of your team you will not succeed.

Leaders Eat Last Summary

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Cary Bailey–Findley has built High Performance Cultures within three Fortune 500 companies, and was awarded the ranking of #1 development organization in the world by the Association of Talent Development. He is currently the Talent Manager for SimCorp, but spends his free time helping startups scale up the the talent they need to succeed.

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