The title has become relatively well-known in the past couple years because of a book written by Simon Sinek who also wrote “Start With Why.”I really enjoyed both books and have long ago internalized the first principles both titles communicate. In “”Leaders Eat Last,”Sinek describes the military leadership concept of senior officers always putting the needs of their troops before their own needs. This concept takes the form of the senior officer always ensuring his or her troops have eaten before he or she addresses their own hunger. They also make sure all their troops get to sleep before they lay down for a little rest. They always make sure their troops are recognized by senior commanders and credit their troops with any success of the unit while demonstrating accountability as a leader by taking the blame or punishment for failures.
I’d love to say I learned this concept while I was serving in the Air Force. While I did have leaders who walked this walk, I didn’t learn about this concept until serving under a Marine in the On-Site Inspection Agency with my coauthors. His name was Gerald Stolar and he epitomized the phrase “an officer and a gentleman.” I continued to learn more about this concept from Army officers although I will say that not all Army officers demonstrated this. Its a simple concept that fully envelops the Air Force Core Value of Service Before Self. I essentially grew up as a leader with these kinds of leaders all around me demonstrating the way I should lead. It’s a simple concept, but surprisingly rare in practice.
One more piece of leadership advice that I learned from great officers in the military is to never ask your troops to do anything you wouldn’t do. Follow these concepts and people will seek out opportunities to work with you and always exceed any objective you ask them to accomplish. Next time you get a chance to lead, eat last, do the task first–not matter how menial, and let everyone else rest before you sit or lay down. It will make you hungry, teach you humility, wear you out—and give you more energy and joy than you can imagine.