In Leaders Eat Last

In Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Sinek combines biochemistry and new business perspectives practices to support his premise that real leadership is predicating upon trust and empathy. In part two of Leaders Eat Last, ‘Our Chemical Dependency,’ Sinek’s discussion of our biochemistry as human beings involves endorphin, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These four primary chemicals contribute to our positive feelings we call “happiness” (Sinek, S.,2017). Chemical reactions are the reason we exist on the Earth and, of course, they are the reason we work hard, look after others, survive and ultimately thrive. By observing chemical reactions, we can understand and explain the paradox of being a human. He keeps his readers engaged with stories, research findings, and examples that bring his ideas to life.
Sinek describes endorphins and dopamine as the ‘selfish’ chemicals: that a person does not need anybody’s help to get them. Endorphin’s function is to mask physical pain (Sinek, S.,2017). An example of the effects of endorphins could be the “runner’s high:” the feeling of euphoria many athletes experience during and after a hard workout (pg. 125). Marathon runners push their bodies to the limits not because they have discipline, but due to the amazing “high” feeling. Dopamine is the feeling that you found something you are looking for or that you accomplished something you set out to achieve (Sinek, S.,2017). Sinek used the following example: the feeling a person gets when they crossed off something from their To-Do-List – that’s dopamine. The purpose of dopamine is to make sure we get stuff done. Dopamine is helpful when in a comfortable and balanced system but is dangerous and destructive when the system is unbalanced; another reason why people get addicted to drugs, alcohol, and their jobs. A workaholic is compelled to work more hours than average to get the next bonus. A workaholic leader becomes overly-controlling of all workplace routines demanding unnecessary reports, interfering with people’s work and consistently produce a culture of fear and isolation. Dopamine addicts will do anything to get another hit on the risk of their resources and their relationships. When the “mask” of pain, endorphins, is combined with the feeling of satisfaction you feel upon completing a task, dopamine, it encourages humans to hunt, gather and achieve anything they put their mind to accomplish (Sinek, 2017, page).
Endorphins and dopamine are the chemicals of progress while serotonin and oxytocin are the social chemicals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of pride and social approval (Sinek, S.,2017). Public recognition is important because we are social animals who crave the recognition of others: this is why we have public awards events. Sinek used the example of a college graduation; this event is the recognition of all the hard work put in the past four years. College graduates feel confident and accomplished due to serotonin. The exact time the college graduate feels the serotonin in his/her veins, his/her parents also got a surge of serotonin (Sinek, S.,2017). Serotonin reinforces the relationship between parent and child: the same can be said about boss and employee when accomplishing a goal. When the college graduate or employee gives a speech, they say words like “I couldn’t have done it without my parents or my mentor.” They do this because they thank the person who they believe was looking after them. In sports teams, they win trophies for the coach to make them proud. Oxytocin is the intense feeling of safety that “someone’s got your back.” You get oxytocin by physical contact like hugging: an example Sinek used is the huge amount of oxytocin a mother gets when giving birth to a child (Sinek, S.,2017). Oxytocin is the feeling of love and trust. It is released in the mother’s system for the purpose of the mother-child bond. In business, shaking hands is important for making a deal, thus, the handshake solidified it with physical touch. Another way to get oxytocin is through the act of human generosity. Sinek defined generosity as the giving of your time and energy expecting nothing in return (Sinek, S.,2017). These four chemicals drive cooperation by receiving neurochemical benefits and provide insight into the success of human beings.
The Circle of Safety is offering trust and empathy within an organization. Leaders do this by providing a sense of belonging and setting a culture free of danger from each other. Outside the circle, employers spend too much time and energy protecting themselves from each other (Sinek, S.,2017). The responsibility of leadership is to do two things: determine who gets in the circle and how big the circle gets (Sinek, S..,2017). Great leaders extend the circle of safety of belonging out to the outermost edges, so the most junior person feels safe and that he/she belongs.
Sinek examined the chemicals that make humans happy, sad, angry, or stressed. These chemical emotions are the ones leaders must move with, and against, to create the circle of safety. When we are together, we can easily face the dangers outside our circle. When the circle is broken it is due to leaders not allowing a space of safety. When people don’t feel that they belong, they are forced to exert their own energy to protect themselves from each other and thereby, exposing themselves to greater danger from the outside world. When employees have to worry about their boss not having their back, their energy is not invested in the product they are trying to develop, but with keeping themselves feeling safe.