Leaders Eat Last explores the influence that neurochemicals have on the way people feel and consequently act, and examines the discrepancies between how our bodies were designed to function and how they function today. Ultimately, we need true leaders to direct us back on the right path.
Have you ever wondered how societies were divided into leaders and followers? The answer is actually quite simple: biology.
It all comes down to hormones, which evolved over eons to help us survive by controlling our emotions and moderating our behavior, and which affect us just as much today as they did tens of thousands of years ago.
The hormone dopamine rewards us with happy excitement whenever we complete a task, such as finding something we’ve been searching for or reaching our weight-loss goals. In addition, serotonin and oxytocin affect our social lives by helping us form relationships with other people.
And then there are endorphins, which disguise exhaustion and pain as physical pleasure. Endorphins are the reason why we leave the gym aglow after a hard day of training and just can’t wait to go back for more. Ten thousand years ago, endorphins would have helped a village’s hunters continue the hunt and bring back meat to their hungry families despite their physical exhaustion. Today, they inspire professional athletes, such as runners, to achieve their peak performance.
In addition to helping us survive, hormone-driven behavior is also responsible for creating the basic template for social hierarchy.
In hunter-gatherer societies, for example, a rush of endorphins allowed hunters to push for miles and miles in order to secure meat for the community, which in turn earned them the privileges of higher status. Weaker individuals, who for one reason or another couldn’t participate in the hunt, had to accept less prestigious roles, such as gathering fruits.
This distinction between the “strong” and the “weak” was the first step on the path towards social hierarchy. Yet, while certainly being responsible for these class distinctions, hormones also add cohesion to these hierarchical structures by giving the weaker individuals a serotonin- or oxytocin-based warm feeling towards one another as well as the leader, rather than destructive stings of jealousy.