My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #2

Leadership Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Leadership Lesson #2: Be Last.

This is counterintuitive. We are taught by the world to look for our best interests.  We are taught to get all we can. We are taught the end justifies the means. We are taught the only person you can trust is you. In the context of leadership, “be last” is perplexing as well. After all, aren’t leaders supposed to be out front, you know, leading? Aren’t leaders to supposed to lead from the front, be visible, chart the path of an organization? Absolutely. This principle has less to do with a leader’s physical position within an organization and more to with his/her heart position before the organization.

There is an unwritten rule in the Marine Corps – officers eat last. An interesting phenomenon occurs when Marines gather to eat – junior Marines go to the front of the line while senior Marines go to the back. No orders are given. It just happens. This practice is symbolic of a critical battlefield truth – leaders sacrifice their own comfort – even their own survival – for the good of those in their care. I learned this lesson during my years in the Marine Corps and it is one I still practice today. In his book, Leaders Eat Last; Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek quotes retired Marine Lieutenant General George Flynn who explains this principle further:

“Leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

Effective leaders ensure their people have everything they need to be successful. Effective leaders display a willingness to sacrifice what they want so others may have what they need. When leaders inspire those under their care, they will in turn dream bigger dreams, invest precious time and energy in their organization, and will be far more productive and satisfied.

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