Leaders Eat Last

4 minute read


As always, I don’t agree with or use everything I read, but I will still try and summarize it here. If you are new here, read why I put my semi-personal book notes online.

This book gets a little off-topic. On one hand, it makes it more enjoyable to read, talking about the chemical response of human beings. On the other hand, it can make it a bit lengthy where you will want Simon to get to the point. This book is a little more entertaining than most books so be cautious when studies are presented. On one hand, I do like data. On the other hand, I always ask myself how relevant is the data. When it comes to leadership, I think experience is very important because the data seems like it would be difficult to reliably acquire.


The author goes through and explains 4 types of neurotransmitters and how they related to human emotion and behaviour. From these building blocks, the author puts together some insight into the follow and leader dynamic.

  1. Endorphin: pain masking
  2. Dopamine: a feeling of accomplishment
  3. Serotonin: “leadership” hormone
  4. Oxytocin: love


Endorphin and Dopamine are the “selfish hormones”. These hormones help humans accomplish tasks. The problem is leaders often use fear tactics which will bring bag results for the group. Although, for the leader, it may make them feel good at the expense of the team. The fact that these hormones are also addictive causes a strong negative feedback loop making it difficult for leaders to break this bad habit. Check out the book, Laws of Leadership for more information on why the tyrant leadership style fails.


Serotonin and Oxytocin are the “selfless hormones” promoting empathy and synergy. Defining the culture and values promoting closeness and teamwork creates an environment where people will want to be available and involved. It also helps with recruitment and retaining. Check out the section in the book Zero to One for more information on the importance of culture.


It is essential to feel a sense of responsibility allowing one to care for their followers. Without empathy, the emotional distance that is created prevents us from understanding and anticipating the needs of others. Eventually, causing decisions at other’s expense ultimately having a negative effect on the culture of the company. In the Five Dysfunctions of a Team there is some relevant info on this topic.


Empower people so that they have internal motivation for staying at their job. Although, it may not be possible to change others, changing the environment can be just as effective. Create a working environment to allow those already engaged to work with inspiration. This is similar to Rule 12 of The 21 Laws of Leadership. My experience has shown me this is one of the most important considerations.

Bond with Others

The most important thing is to be able to create ties with others. The relationship of trust is essential to creating your persona which should focus on integrity and character. Real genuine connections with others need to be maintained as well as built partially accomplished by enabling trust. This stands true with customers, peers, employees, and even rivals. Personally, I’ve always tried to learn about the passions of others around me by having them talk about it. This gives me a way to connect at a genuine level while also learning something I may otherwise have no concept of. If I already know about the subject, that works too. It can be a time to discuss commonality which is equally fulfilling.

Long Term Priority

Simon compares GE and Costco.


CEO, Jack Welsh prioritized short term gains which eventually tanked the company. The company culture was a roller-coaster because of a dopamine addicted CEO who would fire the bottom 10% of the company trying to maintain short term profits. I had heard some of these stories first hand and it seemed like the type of culture where you were not incentivized to work as a team and instead prioritized your self-interests.


CEO Jeff Sinegal focused on the long term which shows in the slow steady growth of the company. During times of crisis, it is said that Jeff would focus on investing in employees instead of firing them. Very different from GE.

Last to Eat

In the US marines, the oldest members are always the last to eat. This symbolizes the idea that leaders are primarily there to serve others making sure that their people are priority number one. The author makes an analogy saying that leaders should be last like a pack of wolves, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. Regardless of the analogy, the advice is still sound.


Overall, this book is a more enjoyable and entertaining read than other’s I’ve encountered. If you are feeling a little burnt out when reading these types of books I recommend this style to get yourself some momentum in learning more about the topic.

Avishaan’s Goodreads

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives
Hello Startup. A Programmer's Guide to Building Products, Technologies, and Teams
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
The Systems Mindset: Managing the Machinery of Your Life
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

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