LEADERS EAT LAST – Create Servant Leaders in Your Program

LEADERS EAT LAST is the title of Simon Sinek’s tremendous book and the focus of this week’s ‘Factory.

In the military soldiers always align in rank order at the mess hall.  Officers line up behind the enlisted men and eat after them.  This is not a written rule anywhere, but a standard.  Rank is not a privilege but a responsibility.  In our “look at me” society this is not how our young people are growing up thinking about leadership.  They are thinking about how to get ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ and post one of the 93 MILLION selfies taken each day.  If you are leading any group then our narcissist society is working against your effort to make a TEAM.

We always use short video clips in our team meetings (a future Culture Factory topic) and the one above from the movie “We Were Soldiers” is a perfect example of a servant leader.  All of us would prefer to be in the platoon of the lieutenant who cares about our well-being and not just how much he can achieve through his soldiers’ efforts.  According to Sinek, “When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and the lives of the people inside the organization first – to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice the tangible results so that people remain, and feel safe and feel like they belong – remarkable things happen.”   All the way back to the ‘caveman’ era there was one alpha male who was the primary protector of the tribe.  He probably did not eat last but he was responsible for the security of the group and was the most trusted in the village.


Other characteristics of servant leaders:

  1. Empathy – allows a ‘circle of trust’ to be formed.
  2. Encourager – this type of leader makes all feel valued and encouraged.
  3. ‘Water-Carrier’ – is the leader who picks up the weight room, the locker room, etc.

There are lots of examples of great players who we all need as coaches who think they are true leaders but are not Leaders Eat Last types of guys.  I do not ever want this blog to be negative but we could all come up with guys who fit this category.  A great way to teach this is to ask your players for examples…they will have several who they perceive as “me guys” and not servants.

“The cost of leadership is self-interest.”  General George Flynn

“Great leaders sacrifice for the group and expect nothing in return.”  Simon Sinek

One guy who I can talk about who fits the bill is one of my favorite actors of all-time…Lego Batman.  Lego Batman is a stud.  He is a self-proclaimed ‘crime fighting, night-stalking, vigilante.  I have no need for friends, I don’t have feelings, I don’t talk about feelings, I don’t have anything except rage.”  Batman is awesome at what he does but he does not want to be a part of a TEAM.  I used this example with my guys and it resonated with them.



Your athletes, students, or whoever you are leading need to look for and see examples of this.  Challenge them to find anyone they witness being a servant to share with the group.  Ask them to take a pic of who they see being a Leader Eats Last type of person.  I found one last August when I was allowed to sit in on a team meeting at SMU.  After the meeting, the team was dismissed to go to a team meal but there were 10-12 chairs that needed to be put away.  A few Ponies, three I think, stayed to help clean up before they went to eat and one of them was preseason All-American and future second-round draft choice Courtland Sutton.  Coach Morris and his staff did a great job turning the program at SMU before taking over at Arkansas recently and after seeing first hand one their best players being one of their best servant leaders it is easy to see one of the reasons they had a great culture.

Whatever you emphasize you will get.  If you want real leadership you must be intentional and have a daily team meeting (before practice) to hammer it home.  I found lots of great videos to share to emphasize it with our team and just today we had a player stay late to help one of our middle school players in the weight room.  It might have happened before our emphasis this week on servant leadership but the timing was great and we were able to praise him for being a Leader Eats Last type of guy.

THANKS for getting in ‘The Factory’ again for some championship culture.  If you have a great idea of how you emphasize servant leadership in your program please email me and share!

This summer I am traveling around the country doing one-day Culture Factory seminars.   My schedule filled up very quickly so I am now offering ‘Zoom’ (skype) sessions.  If you are interested in some 1 on 1 culture consultation tailored to your program I would be happy to help you.


Just wrapped up our first session from TX to KY with @CoachJacksonTPW Awesome stuff coach!!
Scott Grizzle
Greenup Co. Football
Greenup, KY
Many people talk about culture, but few people have built and sustained a culture like Coach Jackson. He is living and implementing culture on a daily basis. If you want strategies and examples of how to build your teams culture, then I recommend you learn from Coach Jackson’s down to earth, real-life approach to culture!
Steve Millsaps
Joliet West Athletic Director
Joliet, Illinois

I am a proud 28-year veteran coach and educator and am the head football coach and campus coordinator at North Forney High School in Forney, TX.  NF is a 5A school with 1,600 students that was opened in 2009.  This past season we finished 10-3, the best record in the history of the school. We achieved a few milestones; defeating three teams they had never beaten, avg. 53 points a game (top 10 in 5A Texas history), won first 5A playoff game and advanced to the third round for the first time.  None of this would have happened w/o great players, coaches, and administration support.  But, it also would not have happened if we would not have changed the culture, a holistic approach and a commitment to the mental game.
I will share some of the things we did this season but am also excited to learn from you out there who are also on this journey.  The bottom line for me is I love coaches and believe in our great profession.  I want to contribute and writing CDS has allowed me to do in a small way.  This newsletter will also, but I hope will connect like-minded leaders.  I plan to learn as much as I give by doing this.

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