Sunday, December 24, 2017

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Mr. Sinek uses the metaphor of the Marine Corps chow line to discuss how leaders should run their businesses. He preaches the need to make people feel safe and happy in their jobs, to give them a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. His writing is conversational to the point of being sloppy at times, but certainly accessible. He tries to tie lessons about leadership into an overarching thesis that humans’ biochemistry – as a result of evolution through natural selection – dictates how they perceive and respond to threats, camaraderie, and other social dynamics in the workplace.

When he dives into attempting to describe the way various neurotransmitters work in various office settings the work suffers. There's a lot of sloppy thinking masquerading as soft science. Indeed, Sinek will regularly offer a few sentences that are facty, if devoid of actual facts, then jump to a conclusion that is little more than metaphorical conjecture.

Example: "Oxytocin really is magical stuff. Mother Nature wants the ones who give to others to keep their genes in the gene pool." What? I thought we were talking about neurotransmitters, not magic. And I'm unsure of the role of Mother Nature in the evolutionary process. Unfortunately, language like this blunts the message Sinek is trying to deliver. And he is barely able to write a page without some of this kind of nonsense talk.

This isn't to say that there's not a valuable lecture here; this text would work great as a TED talk (which it started as) or as a series of lectures for undergrad business students. It's a decent, if shallow attempt to tie a basic understanding of the role of neurotransmitters in human motivation into hoary platitudes about the workplace. Dilbert meets Jared Diamond meets Malcom Gladwell.

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