Leaders Eat Last

Michael Metzger

Simon Sinek is widely recognized for his TED talk, “Start With Why.” He also wrote “Leaders Eat Last.” It’s good, but not clear on why leaders eat last. Scripture is.

Fans of TED talks recognize Sinek and his terrific talk, Start With Why. Too many leaders and organizations start with what or how. Great leaders start with why.

They also eat last. It’s an Army maxim that’s the basis for Sinek’s 2014 book, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.” If you don’t enjoy reading books, watch his TED talk: Leaders Eat Last.

The book makes some good points, but it mostly deals with what and how. Sinek never seems to make it clear as to why leaders eat last. The Bible does. Open it and read Luke 17:5-10. Jesus has just wowed his disciples with some deep truths. Naturally, the disciples want to be like him. They ask for increased faith. They want to be better believers and leaders.

How would you respond to this request? In the faith community, we’d point people to a small group or Bible study. Jesus doesn’t. He points them in another direction.

He poses a question. “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat?’” Nope. The master eats first.

In scripture, increased faith is often equated with being fed. The disciples ask to be fed. But Jesus upends their request: You guys are coming to me seeking to be fed. It doesn’t work that way. What would you say if you had servants and they came to you to be fed?

It’s a rhetorical question. The disciples know the answer so Jesus presses on. “Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink?’ Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?” Nope.

Here’s the point: If you want to grow in your faith, eat last. Here’s why. Love. The Great Commandment is to love God and neighbor. We love our neighbors by seeking their flourishing. “As the Babylonians flourish, so shall you” (Jer. 29:7). Translation: Faith increases to the degree that our neighbors flourish. They flourish—we flourish. They eat—then we eat. That’s love. Love is the big why.

And there’s a big benefit. Humility. Jesus closes his lesson by noting, “when you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” If you genuinely serve others, self-interest shrinks. When others praise your work, you’re appreciative but recognize you’re only doing your duty. Leaders always eat last. It shouldn’t be a big deal.


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