The start of my in-depth meathead book reviews is here. The goal of these reviews is to hopefully give some awesome nuggets of information, make the reader interested in diving deeper into the book and selfishly to give myself the opportunity to review a book and have these notes to look back on.
Leaders Eat Last was a book I just recently finished up. I was drawn to the book because of Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk and book “Start with Why” which really changed the way I operated in all aspects of life. Everyone has a what, but if you want to be successful you need a why to push through. When I saw the book on the shelf, I grabbed it and dove in. I really enjoyed this one, the over arching message of what it means to be a leader, why people follow leaders and how to succeed was powerful and informative to me. So, without further ado, here are my 10 key take away from Leaders Eat Last.
1. It’s Not About You, It Never Was
Having a leadership role in a company usually means you are given certain perks that others do not have. My favorite story from this book comes from a former high ranking official in the government. This official was speaking at a conference a year after retiring from his post and tells the story of how the year before when he still held his title, he was picked up, treated like an MVP and given a ceramic cup filled with coffee. This year, however, when he arrived, he had to get a taxi, find his way around the convention and had to get his own coffee that was in a Styrophone cup.
“All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which you eventually will, they’ll give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a Styrofoam cup”
I freaking loved this story because it really shows its not about you. It’s not about what you accomplish, its not about what stuff you have or the title you hold. That’s all going to be taken away. So, what can’t be taken away? The memories people have of you. The LEGACY you left on the company. The shoulders you provided for others to stand on to see further than you ever could. Let’s stop focusing on the Ceramic cup and more on these things. It’s not about you, it never was.
2. “Civilizations Don’t Usually die by murder. They die by suicide”
I think this is an awesome thought process to go about life with. Usually when things fail
it has much less to do with what others did and way more about what you did. You aren’t competing against others in life, you are competing against yourself. The best version of yourself, the best version of your business, the best version of your career. This is the battle you fight and when you start focusing on the outside, the other business, your peers, your competitors, that’s when things start to slip, and your “civilization” starts to commit “suicide”
3. The less I say, the better off we are.
One of the things I do that really pisses my athletes off, is when they ask for specific instructions on something (when I know they are capable of solving the problem) I tell them to “figure it out” While this may seem like the easy way out as a coach, I actually think it’s much harder and a higher level of thinking. I need to be able to give up control to allow them to work on things. The more I have to tell you, the worse off we are. The more someone else has to tell you the less secure they feel about the topic. Give people a destination, direction and protection and allow them to figure out the rest of the stuff in the middle. Don’t train people to comply, train them to think and the organization will go much further.
4. Responsibility is not doing what we are told, that’s obedience, responsibility is doing what is right.
This builds off the last point and I just loved this quote from the book. If all a person knows how to do is follow orders, as soon as that chaos in life hits, which it will, then we will fall apart. People must know when to not follow the rules, because following the rules doesn’t mean doing the right thing. If we never train our teams, businesses or cultures to work this way, we will be rigid and get passed. Figure out, adjust and GO!
5. If everyone is looking up to you, who is looking at you
How many people in leadership positions do you know that seem outdated? Their ways don’t seem like they work anymore, and they have a complacent feeling about them. If they had to start from the bottom you don’t think they’d be able to make it back to where they are at. If you go about it in the wrong way “The Cost of leadership is self-interest” If everyone is looking up to you, who is looking at you, making sure you’re in check, you’re doing what you should be doing to grow and keep pushing forward. On your way up you had this in the form of mentors and bosses, but when you are the boss this changes a bit and gets more challenging. One of the most successful people I have ever met in my entire life told me once “Soak up all the knowledge on your way up, one of my biggest failures was being promoted too quickly”
This got me thinking that even though it is hard, it doesn’t mean you have to allow this to happen. This is where an accountability circle comes into play. Pick 3-5 people on a similar track as you and ask them to keep holding you accountable. To keep picking you apart. To keep attacking your weaknesses. These people aren’t here to be your buddies (although they could be) and they aren’t here to tell you how great you are. They are here to make sure growth continues.
6. How you do one thing is how you do everything
Back to story time! In the book the author describes a situation in which a Marine was on trial and at risk for being permanently kicked out of the military. When the author asked what the marine had done, expecting a huge mistake, he was told the marine fell asleep at the post. The author was shocked that something so small could end the Marines career, but he was told it had nothing to do with the Marine falling asleep. Actually, another Marine had committed the same fault earlier that week and was facing no punishment. The issue was that the marine had lied about falling asleep and only took accountability for his action when it was irrefutable. If you can’t be trusted in a small situation, you sure as heck can’t be trusted in a much larger life or death situation and the marines know that. Falling asleep and lying about it was as bad as murder, because in the battlefield it could end up being that. The results should never change anything, it all adds up to something much larger than the little action you’re seeing.
“If you quit now, you’ll quit in your marriage”
- Coach Herm
7. Will you do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said
This next point is another story about the Marines. When asked what makes Marines so special, it wasn’t that they were strong, fearless, talented, smart or fast. While they have these things, so does everyone they are going to be facing. “They are good at what they do because they trust each other and believe, without a doubt, that the Marine to the left of them and the Marine to the right of them, regardless of rank, will do what needs to be done” This trust in the group is what makes them so effective and what can make you so effective. If people around you know you will do what needs to be done and will say what needs to be said, they will be willing to do a lot more for you. Don’t allow that doubt to creep in ever.
8. The World Needs Leaders, be one.
In this book there is an overarching theme that people want to be led. Jordan Peterson and Jocko both say the same thing in different regards as well. People thrive off having direction and a foundation or “Circle of Safety” in which they know they can operate in. However, to be led, there needs to be leaders we want to follow. This leads me to a point I tell people all the time, “The World Needs leaders, be one” Take ownership of this and help lead the world and people around you.
“We want to help our leaders, but overthrow the dictators”
There’s a difference, don’t forget.
9. Those at the top have all the power but none of the information. Those at the bottom have all the information but not power.
I thought this was a very interesting point. The higher up you get, the further you can see ahead of you and the more distance you have from the day to day operations, the more likely you are to have a disconnect with what is actually happening in the company/team/business/culture. While your job as a leader is to see further than the ones below you, so you can direct and protect, this can many times get too exaggerated. You as a leader are disconnected from what is going on and you have all the power to fix these problems while the ones below you, who have all the information have no power to fix it. As a leader you need to be able to trust the ones below you and give them power so you can focus on your job, direction and protection. Tim Ferris talks about “not being the bottle neck in your own company” and I think this theory directly applies here.
10. We need a vision of the world that doesn’t exist yet
What we can see in front of us is already there, we need to see further. We need to think and dream big. We need to continue to grow and create change. If heaven on earth doesn’t exist yet, create it. You have this power.
If you got anything out of this post and want more things like this, I urge you to join the Jochum Strength Newsletter. Every week we go over nuggets like this and other cool things I learn about from the previous week.
Thank You For Reading
Keep Chopping Wood