This is no soapbox rambling. It is just biology.

– Simon Sinek

The conventional approach to leadership puts leaders at the front of the pack. The very word ‘leader’ probably evokes the image of a person standing separate from the crowd, somewhat removed, in advance of the group. To many people, it might even evoke the image of a person on the top of the kind of pyramid you tend to find in management books.

‘Leaders eat last’ is not one of those books. And Simon Sinek is not one for convention. A globally renowned author and motivational speaker, Sinek will fully brings up stories of the most saccharine sentimentality and idealized optimism and then backs up their lessons with a fascinating collection of cold, hard facts and thorough scientific research.

It’s a refreshing endorsement for leaders that are already dedicated to helping and protecting the people in their companies. But more than that, it’s an absolute must-read for leaders who are attempting to face up to the challenge of building a great company culture. What makes it such an important read is the fact that it doesn’t address the more superficial aspects of company culture like perks and quirks.

Instead it is dedicated almost entirely to the underlying motivations and over-arching missions that inevitably dictate how fiercely loyal people will be to a cause. Moreover, it approaches these subjects from a highly scientific point of view and analyzes in some depth the anthropology, chemistry, biology and psychology that makes people tick.

In particular, his analysis of the way fear and anxiety induced cortisol brings out non-cooperative actions goes some way towards dispelling the notion that employees should be coerced into collaboration. From the role of endorphins and dopamine in the selfish processing of positive results to the role of serotonin and oxytocin in inspiring selflessness and leadership, it’s a bridge between science and motivation rarely discussed in management theory.

For companies worth building

For anyone with a traditional business education or indeed experience of a conventional business, a lot of the stories in this book will seem like far-fetched fairy tales. But Sinek goes some way towards reassuring even the most cynical reader that not only are real organizations already running their teams this way – it’s actually working.

Citing stories from organizations as diverse as manufacturers and the US Marine Corps, ‘Leaders eat last’ reveals the values that drive the most successful leaders. But far more tellingly, it reveals the reasons these values inspire the brilliant people who work for them to stay and devote their careers to a single company.

Using the same firm grasp of anthropology and biology that captured the imagination of millions of people in his TED talk from 2009, Sinek reveals the key drivers of collaboration and commitment. Not only does this emphasis on the science make for some of the most compelling stories and theories in this book, it also ensures Sinek can introduce – and then justify – the idea of companies where people love their jobs.

Any book about success is inherently a book about idealism. It’s just that the ideals are usually all about profits and performance. In ‘Leaders eat last’, Sinek delivers a refreshing tribute to companies with the kind of ideals we’d all like to get behind – the kind of companies you want to root for. The kind of companies you want to build.