Leaders Eat Last — Part 2 [Highlights]

This post is in continuation to below post

We read about a few chemicals responsible for happiness, stress, and survival. Due to the excess of stress and anxiety chemicals present in our body, we get heart attacks and other health issues. But it is in our hands to handle these chemical levels.

With trust, we do things for each other, look out for each other, and sacrifice for each other. All of which adds up to our sense of security inside a Circle of Safety.

Leaders have the power to create an environment in which people will naturally thrive and advance the good of the organization itself. Once the culture and values are clearly defined, it becomes the responsibility of all those who belong, whether in a formal position of leadership or not, to act as leaders, work to uphold the values and keep the Circle of Safety strong.

Few would be offended if it were decided to give Nelson Mandela a $150
million bonus. If it were announced that Mother Teresa was awarded $250
million at the end of the fiscal year, few if anyone would make a stink about
it. We know that they upheld their side of the social contract. They were
willing to make sacrifices for the good of those who chose to follow them.
They considered the well-being of others before themselves and sometimes
suffered as a result. And in those cases, we are perfectly happy with our
leaders receiving all the perks we feel they have earned. The same goes for
companies. They earn their reputations by being willing to do the right thing
for their people and their customers or clients. That reputation suffers when
they break the social contract of leadership.

If we consider how we treat celebrities or the wealthy in our materialistic,
reality-TV-saturated society, all this science seems to make sense. Some
people who inherit money, coerce the system or gain celebrity thanks to the
modern media system are afforded certain perks simply because they would
appear to have a status higher than ours. But fame is supposed to be a by-
product of alpha status, not a way to achieve it. The same is true for financial
wealth. It is supposed to be the by-product of accomplishment, not a standard
for leadership status alone.

Unless someone is willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of others to earn their place in the hierarchy, they aren’t really “alpha material.” Simply acting the part is not enough.

Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.

The goal for any leader of any organization is to find balance. When dopamine is the primary driver, we may achieve a lot but we will feel lonely and unfulfilled no matter how rich or powerful we get. We live lives of quick hits, in search of the next rush. Dopamine simply does not help us create things that are built to last. When we live in a hippie commune, the oxytocin gushing, but without any specific measurable goals or ambition, we can deny
ourselves those intense feelings of accomplishment. No matter how loved we
may feel, we may still feel like failures. The goal, again, is balance. When the system is in balance, however, we seem to gain almost supernatural ability. Courage, inspiration, foresight, creativity, and empathy, to name a few. When those things all come to bear, the results and the feelings that go with them are simply remarkable.

If good people are asked to work in a bad culture, one in which leaders do
not relinquish control, then the odds of something bad happening go up.
People will be more concerned about following the rules out of fear of getting
in trouble or losing their jobs than doing what needs to be done. And when
that happens, souls will be lost.

A video conference can never replace a business trip. Trust is not formed through a screen, it is formed across a table. It takes a handshake to bind humans and no technology yet can replace that. There is no such thing as virtual trust.

When a leader is able to personally know everyone in the group, the
responsibility for their care becomes personal. The leader starts to see those
for whom they are responsible as if they were their own family. Likewise,
those in the group start to express ownership of their leader. In a Marine
platoon of about forty people, for example, they will often refer to the officer
as “our” lieutenant. Whereas the more distant and less seen senior officer is
simply “the” colonel. When this sense of mutual ownership between a leader
and those being led starts to break down, when informality is replaced by
formality, it is a sure sign the group may be getting too big to lead effectively.

In bigger companies, ones with many hundreds or thousands of employees who are not distributed into groups of fewer than 150, employees tend to have more friends outside of their jobs than inside. The larger the group of people we work with, the less likely we are to develop any kind of trusting relationship with them.

Money is an abstraction of tangible resources or human effort. It is a
promissory note for future goods or services. Unlike the time and effort that
people spend on something, it is what money represents that gives it its value.

In our offices when we talk to someone while reading our e-mails or sit in a meeting with one eye on our phone. We may be hearing all that is said, but the person speaking will not feel we are listening, and an opportunity to build trust — or be seen as a leader who cares — is squandered.

Just as a parent can’t buy the love of their children with gifts, a company can’t buy the loyalty of its employees with salaries and bonuses. What produces loyalty, that irrational willingness to commit to the organization even when offered more money elsewhere, is the feeling that the leaders of the company would be willing, when it matters, to sacrifice their time and energy to help us. We will judge a boss who spends time after hours to help us as more valuable than a boss who simply gives us a bonus when we hit a target.

The oxytocin and serotonin make us feel good when time and energy are given to us, which inspires us to give more of ourselves to others. Business is a human enterprise. It may even be why we call a business a “company” because it is a collection of people in the company of other people. It’s the company that matters.

We will often follow our leaders blindly with the belief (or hope) that it is in our interest to do so. This is the deal we make with our leaders. We in the group will work hard to see their vision become a reality and they will offer us protection along the way, which includes honest assessments and commentary. We need to feel that they actually care about us.

Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth.

Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. Only when a critical mass of employees feel like their leaders are working to help defend them from dangers outside can the company then invite customers into the circle too.

Leadership is about taking responsibility for lives and not numbers. Managers look after our numbers and our results and leaders look after us. All managers of metrics have an opportunity to become leaders of people.

As money replaced the expense of time and energy, now brands that offer people the chance to do good by not actually doing anything replace service.
Neither fulfills the human need to do real, hard work for the benefit of others.
Neither fulfills the sacrifice requirements for serotonin or oxytocin. The dopamine drive for instant gratification, at best, means we, as individuals,
keep “giving” to various causes without ever feeling any sense of belonging
or lasting fulfillment. At worst, however, feelings of loneliness and isolation
can lead to dangerous antisocial behavior.

Empathy is not something we give to the nameless, faceless people we aim to serve. Empathy is not something we offer to our customers or our employees from nine to five. Empathy is, as Johnny Bravo explains, “a second by second, minute by minute service that [we] owe to everyone if [we] want to call [ourselves] a leader.” Leadership is not a license to do less; it is a responsibility to do more. And that’s the trouble. Leadership takes work. It takes time and energy. The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to human beings.

Everything about being a leader is like being a parent. It is about committing to the well-being of those in our care and having a willingness to make sacrifices to see their interests advanced so that they may carry our banner long after we are gone.

Happy Reading!!!




I am Indian by birth, Punjabi by destiny. Humanity is my religion. Love to eat, travel, read books and my million dreams keep me alive.

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Navneet Ojha

Navneet Ojha

I am Indian by birth, Punjabi by destiny. Humanity is my religion. Love to eat, travel, read books and my million dreams keep me alive.

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