In the Military, whether in a mess facility (place you eat), or in a field environment when the magical hotbox meals were delivered, you will see that all soldiers and officers will line up in rank order with the officers hanging back and waiting until the soldiers have been given their meals.
There is no rule that says they will have to do this and nobody tells them they have to. This is because they view leadership as a responsibility, not as a rank. It’s not about being in charge it’s about taking care of those in your charge. That’s what leadership really is.
Leadership is all about being willing to put yourself at risk (whether this be on the battlefield or in the board room), to ensure that those around you are looked after. As Simon Sinek describes, this creates a circle of safety. This circle of safety is a natural instinct to create successful prides and herds. As humans we have varying success!
This principle has been true since the earliest tribes of hunters and gatherers. It’s not a management theory; it’s biology. Our brains and bodies evolved to help us find food, shelter, mates and especially safety. We’ve always lived in a dangerous world, facing predators and enemies at every turn. We thrived only when we felt safe among our group. Our biology hasn’t changed in fifty thousand years, but our environment certainly has. Today’s workplaces tend to be full of cynicism, paranoia and self-interest. But the best organisations foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build a Circle of Safety.
The biology is clear: when it matters most, leaders who are willing to eat last are rewarded with deeply loyal colleagues who will stop at nothing to advance their leader’s vision and their organisation’s interests. It’s amazing how well it works.