Some notes from Leaders Eat Last

Furkan Topal
6 min readJul 27, 2020


“…This is the reason they are willing to push hard and take the kinds of risks they do. And the way any organization can achieve this is with empathy.”

“…As he did with every company he acquired, he started by sitting down to hear what employees had to say.”

“…We don’t even bother measuring a company’s success in decades, instead we focus on successive quarters.”

“…there are shining examples of the positive results an organization will enjoy when the people inside are willing to treat each other not as adversaries, competitors or opposition but rather as trusted allies.”

“…we need the courage to take care of each other when our leaders don’t. And in doing so, we become the leaders we wish we had.”

“…The power the Spartan army did not come from the sharpness of their spears, however; it came from the strength of their shields. Losing one’s shield in battle was considered the single greatest crime a Spartan could commit. Spartans excuse without penalty the warrior who loses his helmet or breastplate in battle but punish the loss of all citizenship rights the man who discards his shield. And the reason was simple. A warrior carries helmet and breastplate for his protection, but his shield for the safety of the whole line.”

“…Levels of depression and anxiety among people who are unhappy at work were the same or greater than those who were unemployed.” (2011 study, University of Canberra)

“…Leaders have overall lower stress levels than those who work for them.” (2012 study, Harvard and Stanford)

“…Like the Spartans, we will have to learn that our strength will come not from the sharpness of our spears but from our willingness to offer others the protection of our shields.”

“…it feels good to put in a lot of effort to accomplish something. There is not biological incentive to do nothing.”

“…Vision of being the ‘biggest’ or ‘the best’ or any other words that so often show up in vision statements are, on biological level, pretty useless if we want to inspire people to work hard to achieve those visions. A good vision statement in contrast, explains, in specific terms, what the world would look like if everything we did was wildly successful.”

“…My favorite definition of love is giving someone the power to destroy us and trusting they won’t use it.”

“…Simply seeing or hearing about acts of human generosity actually inspires us to want to do the same.”

“…people who claim to be happy live 35 percent longer than less happy people.” (2011 study, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

“…they only knew that if one of the members of the group felt threatened, they should all feel threatened.” (Gazelle allegory)

“…though there is no threat of layoffs and the work stress is low, there is a constant low-grade anxiety.”

“…Even though we may think we’re comfortable, the effects of the environment still take their toll.”

“…Ultimately, you want them become better people.” (Child allegory)

“…It’s no wonder some of us try to fake our status. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Though a good fake may trick others into thinking we are more successful than we are, this is biology and we can’t fool ourselves.”
“…Status is biological, we have to earn it to feel it.” (2010 study, Harvard Business School)

“…Unless someone is willing to make personal sacrifices for the good of others to earn their place in the hierarchy, they aren’t really ‘alpha material’.”

“…The more abstract people become, the more capable we are of doing them harm.”

“…Just as the shipping industry lobbied against the change in regulations in the early twentieth century, arguing that having so many lifeboats sitting visibly on the decks would hurt business because people would think their vessels were unsafe, Apple and others contend that paying actual tax liability would hurt their ability to compete. (Incidentally, this is the same argument that car manufacturers used in the 1950s as seat belt requirements were being considered. They feared that the existence of a seat belt would lead people to think their cars were unsafe.)

“…most valuable thing we can do if we are to truly serve our constituents is to know them personally.”

“…it was worth taking a short-term hit to help a client because the loyalty and trust it produced would in time pay back in spades.”

“…As Goethe summed up, ‘You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.’ ”

“…In physics, the definition of power is the transfer of energy.” (Physics allegory)

“…Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth.”

“…As the Zen Buddhist saying goes, how you do anything is how you do everything.”

“…he always saw shareholder value as an outcome, not a strategy.”

“…Customer will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

“…it was common for intellectually driven surgeons to perform autopsies in the morning, study the victims for clues, then attend to patients in the afternoon. The idea of germs, however, was not yet well understood, and the surgeons frequently did not properly wash their hands or sterilize their instruments. It was not until 1843 that an American physician in Boston proposed in an essay that it was the doctors themselves who were responsible for the spread of the disease.” (Puerperal fever spread by doctors)

“…This is the value of the family dinner, team sports, hobbies and extracurricular activities. It is the strong support networks we build during this fragile period that teach us that we need others to help us cope and survive.”

“…the higher the level of a man’s self-esteem, the higher the goals he sets for himself and the more demanding the challenges he tends to seek.”

“…The thinking behind participation awards, another hallmark of Millennial childhood, is that it can boosts confidence and keep students engaged in something they might otherwise quit because, for example, they feel they are not ‘good at it’. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences may outweigh the perceived benefits. Research show that more extrinsic rewards do not add up to greater inner drive. In fact, they have the opposite effect- a decline in intrinsic motivation. Nor do extrinsic rewards motivate children, or any of us, in long term. The most they provide is a shot-term lift. If children see the reward as the only reason for doing something, studies show that one the reward is gone, they will have even less interest in the activity than they did when they started. This is the same reason why extrinsic, dopamine-based rewards systems, like hit-goal-get-bonus, when used as the primary means of incentivizing behavior in a work environment, can’t and don’t breed trust, loyalty or commitment.”

“…According to the American Psychological Association, ‘shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time’.”

“…get used to appreciating the little and the big wins without posting any selfies anywhere.”

“…couples live significantly longer than single people.” (2012 study, Duke University)

“…We need vision of the world that does not yet exist. A reason to come to work. Not just a big goal to achieve. This is what leaders of great organizations do. They frame the challenge in terms so daunting that literally no one yet knows what to do or how to solve it.”

“…The best companies have a robust curriculum to include human skills like effective confrontation, active listening and communication skills.”

“…A true mentor is never too busy to mentor.”

“…good fall, now try it again.”

“…Find the people whom you respect and admire, the ones you want to be more like or know how they are good at something you could be better at, regardless of their rank or responsibility, and ask them what you can do better next time.” (Beg for criticism)

“…no cell phones at any meal table. If you’re out for lunch or dinner with a friend, family, colleague or client, turn your ringer off and put your phone away and out of sight. Upside down on the table doesn’t count.” (Cold turkey your phone)



Furkan Topal