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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Leadership Lessons: Leaders Eat Last


As the son of a Naval Commander, I heard my fair share of military wisdom and leadership advice from my dad as I was growing up at military bases around the world. We were stationed at the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in Rota, Spain, and when he wasn’t flying a reconnaissance mission I would regularly hear him say, “Wake up, it’s Zero-Dark-Thirty”, “What’s the sitrep on school?” and “Straighten up your quarters”. Most of the time it went in one ear and out the other as it would with any child or young adult. Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, when I hear retired military personnel like Admiral William H. McRaven (retired) give the commencement address at the University of Texas and provide leadership tips to recent graduates, it’s usually advice that I find worth listening to.    

I am certainly not the first person at The Center for Sales Strategy to write about leadership and its historical perspective or leadership techniques employed by successful leaders. These posts listed below are certainly worth a read.

Leadership Lessons from George Washington

Improve Sales Performance with Inside Outside Leadership

Four Ways Thought Leadership Can Lead to More Revenue

Burn Your Ships: A History Lesson About How to Be a Great Leader

Insight from Simon Sinek: Leaders Eat Last

What inspired me to write this post was a recent talk I heard at HubSpot’s Inbound Conference by Simon Sinek about leadership and the simple concept that “leaders eat last”. In researching his latest book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Other’s Don’t, Sinek interviewed retired Marine Corp General, George Flynn to learn more about the Marine Corps leadership style. Flynn boiled it down to a simple, unwritten tradition followed by every officer in the Marine Corps: “Officers eat last.”

This simple leadership philosophy of treating your team as though they are the most important thing in your organization sets an example that translates to a committed team that can accomplish much more than other teams. Sinek elaborates on a simple concept that leaders who demonstrate examples of their dedication to their team create a Circle of Safety. The Circle of Safety, as defined by Sinek, leads to stable, adaptive, confident teams, where everyone feels they belong and all energies are devoted to facing the common enemy and seizing big opportunities.  

Simon Sinek answered the question “What does "leaders eat last" mean?” in this short video:

When we think about leadership in terms of sales strategy, a sales team that feels vested in the organization and dedicated to their leadership team will certainly outperform a sales team that feels disconnected and not appreciated by their leaders. I only have empirical evidence on this, but if you are managing a sales organization and want to help them increase their sales, maybe it’s time you make it clear to every seller on your team that they are the most important part of your organization.

If you are a leader in your organization, when getting in line for the buffet at the company Christmas party, get in line last and see if anyone notices. It might just make a difference to your team’s bottom line.

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Topics: leadership