While many people think leaderships is about rank, power and privilege, some experts believe that true leadership is the willingness to place others's needs above your own.
This is what Simon Sinek mentions in his book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t—a follow-up to his powerhouse Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
Whether we are leading armies, multinational corporations or a fledgling home-based business, Sinek’s message is the same. 'We all have the responsibility to become the leaders we wish we had,' he says.
The author says that four primary neurochemicals—endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin (all essential to normal healthy brain function)—contribute to our positive feelings of happiness, pride, joy, achievement and fulfillment.
Endorphins and dopamine are what Sinek calls 'selfish' chemicals; they are released so we will persist in the tasks we need to accomplish as individuals. Endorphins mask physical pain with pleasure. They can produce the euphoria of the runner’s high or—as in the Paleolithic era (Old Stone Age)—give us the strength to track prey miles and miles so we have enough to eat.
If you were driven only by endorphins and dopamine, you’d have a reptilian brain. Crocodiles, Sinek says, act completely on 'me-first' instincts.
Sinek admits there is an awful lot of reptilian behavior at the top of companies these days—many corporate environments short-circuit our capacity for cooperation and compassion, instead promoting paranoia, cynicism and self-interest.
Putting profits before people was one reason so many banks and mortgage companies needed to be rescued with huge government bailouts after the stock market crash of 2008, Sinek says.
Sinek says researching his latest book has even changed the way he conducts his own life and business.
'The lesson I’m learning is that I’m useless by myself. My success hinges entirely on the people I work with—the people who enlist themselves to join me in my vision. And it’s my responsibility to see that they’re working at their best capacity.'
Sinek believes that empathy—the ability to recognize and share other people’s feelings—is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox.
Even small acts of kindness release a tiny shot of feel-good oxytocin. 'These little considerations for others have a building effect,' Sinek says.