Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

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You may have seen Simon Sinek's TED talk, in which case you can probably complete this sentence:

People don't buy what you do; they buy ...

I recently saw a longer talk by Simon Sinek, in which he talks about leadership, what biology has to do with it, and a whole lot of other things. It's a very good talk, 45 minutes long, and chock-full of interesting thoughts and insights. But I found it really hard to summarise in a sentence or two.

What's the message?

I haven't read it yet, but I assume this talk pretty much covers the content of Sinek's new book, "Leaders Eat Last". His previous book, "Start with why" had a simple message, as illustrated in his TED talk. This new book seems to be more complex. As a result, the talk is missing a clear message.

As I said, the talk is very good. So you won't feel like you've wasted 45 minutes (in fact, it doesn't feel like being 45 minutes long, which is a good sign). But you will be hard-pressed to summarise it or even provide some highlights when you recommend it to a friend.

Is it a sales pitch?

Is that a problem? That depends on what the goal of the talk was. The TED talk had the goal of planting the idea that the "why" is more important than anything else; and it succeeded at that. The goal of this talk is probably to get people to buy the book while not trying to make it sound like a sales pitch. So Sinek tried to cram all his findings into the talk and let people use the book (which he doesn't mention, btw) as the "handout".

Well, at least that's my theory. If that's the case, I think it's a recommendable approach. You get away from the talk with a feeling of having heard something profoundly interesting. It doesn't feel like a sales pitch and it feels like it was worth the 45 minutes of your time. You also feel a little overwhelmed by all the information and you want to read up on it. Bam, potential book sale.

Flip Chart Use

What's interesting about both talks (the TED talk and this new one) is that Simon Sinek doesn't use slides - he only uses a flip chart. For this talk, he really only uses two sheets of the flip chart. On the first sheet, he writes the first letters of the four (five, actually) chemicals he talks about. On the other sheet, he draws a simple graph.

This exercise in minimalism could have been improved, though, in my opinion. He switches back and forth between the two sheets several times. There are also two or three situations where he starts talking and then realises that the wrong sheet is visible. So it may have been better to have both sheets visible at the same time.

That may have been a limitation of the setup, though. I also notice that he flip chart itself doesn't seem to be of high quality. Near the end of the talk, the paper begins to slide down which makes it harder for him to put down the pen. That's only a little detail, but as a member of the audience, you will expect a minor accident (such as him dropping the pen) to happen at any time when he does that. It's distracting and takes a little of your attention away from the content of the talk.

I also think it would have been better to spell out the names of the chemicals. I know about Endorphin (and how to spell it), but the information about Oxytocin was new to me. Since these are not everyday words, I think it would have helped the audience to see them spelled out. He shouldn't have done that while talking, mind you; it would have taken too long. He could have prepared that sheet beforehand (and only uncovered it) or he could have prepared cards with the words and stuck them to the flip chart when he mentions them.

Even minimalism requires a minimum of preparation.

Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last from 99U on Vimeo.

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Creative Commons Licence "Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.