What Is The Difference Between Leadership and Service?

Marine Corps officers eat last.

That simple insight inspired the title of Simon Sinek’s latest book, “Leaders Eat Last.” If I could influence high school or college curricula, no one would graduate without successfully completing a semester course on that principle.

Below is another remarkable video of Simon Sinek discussing how circumstances can override our desire to lead and serve and how leadership and service can fix almost any problem. But first, I’d like you think a bit more about these two critical needs: leadership and service.

America is woefully short of leaders. Sure, we have plenty of authorities. We have plenty of order-givers. We’re chock-full of jerks who belligerently spit out directives of what others should do. But we’re at an all-time low of people who actually lead.

At the same time, we have retained an innate appreciation for service. My unscientific survey of readers of this blog found that 82 percent believe a strong service ethic would make America stronger. That’s encouraging.

What I think we fail to recognize is that [olympus_highlight color=“yellow”]leadership is service[/olympus_highlight]. That’s why Marine Corps officers eat last. Officers serve those who serve.

So many problems in America result from our leadership deficit. Do you think Barack Obama eats last? Do you think Hillary Clinton does? Or Donald Trump? I’m not telling you what to think, I’m asking you to really think about that one aspect of character and purpose. This week’s Hennessy’s View poll asks precisely that: which candidates would eat last?

The poll ends on Saturday, but I’ve already seen a remarkable trend. The software tracks how many people start the poll but don’t finish it. On previous polls, well over 95 percent who started the poll completed it. On this poll, only half complete it. And this survey contains only 4 questions, one of the shortest polls I’ve ever run.

Ask yourself why that is. Why is the abandonment rate of this simple poll so high?

Leadership is service. Service is leadership. Authority and leadership are orthogonal–one can be a leaders without authority and an authority without leadership. Most American business “leaders” lack any resemblance of leadership. They wield power. Most political “leaders” are mere authorities seeking only power. True leaders are rare.

But it wasn’t always this way.

I had a boss who was a full generation older than me. We were talking recently about when business stopped being fun and profitable for everyone. His answer, “when the last of the World War II guys retired. That’s when everything changed.

So many of those “WWII guys” knew leadership and service. They lived it. Sure, there were nasty bastards among that generation. But the World War II generation yielded a ridiculous number of true leaders. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, founders of HP, died in the simple homes they lived in when the company was founded. They never moved up. They ate lunch in a cafeteria with everyone else. Owning a great company never got in the way of their leadership.

America has a leadership deficit. To me, that’s the most important issue in 2016. [olympus_highlight color=“yellow”]Without leadership, none of the other problems will be solved[/olympus_highlight]. None of them.

The good news: it’s easy to spot a leader. A leader is the person who eats last.


Featured Image: Dave Packard (left) and Bill Hewlett.