How do you explain why others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all the assumptions? That’s the question Simon Sinek set out to explain in his 2009 TEDx Talk in Puget Sound, WA.
Sinek provides examples from the success of Apple Inc., the movement started by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the Wright brothers being the first to achieve powered-man flight. In each situation, they seem to defy all the odds and prevail with their cause.
Sinek made a discovery in 2005 that profoundly changed his view on how he thought the world worked and the way in which he operates in it. This discovery was the uncovering of a pattern in which all the great leaders would think, act and communicate. It’s opposite of everyone else.
In 2011, Sinek released his book “START WITH WHY”. The book explores, “How great leaders inspire everyone to take action.” This inspired me to write “Start with Why – Create a Triangle of Trust Through Transparency.” It explains how you can use Sinek’s “Golden Circle” to build a Triangle of Trust for your company, organization or group.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT LEADER
This past March, Sinek did a TED Talk on “Why good leaders make you feel safe.” This talk suggests that it’s someone who makes their team members feel secure and draws them into their circle to trust. In his most recent TED talk, he authored “Leaders Eat Last” which explains “Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.”
Sinek provides us inspiration to “START WITH WHY.”
To grow our leadership skills, it doesn’t matter what your role may be with in your organization. We all have the opportunity to learn from these lessons in leadership.
1. START WITH WHY
Simon Sinek points out that everyone in an organization knows “WHAT” it is that they do. Some know “HOW” they do it. But, very few know “WHY” they do what it is that they do. He points out that the reason can’t be to make a profit. That’s a result, and it will always be a result, of providing something of value.
By “why” means: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of the bed in the morning and why should anyone care?
Sinek points out some great leadership success stories examples. I don’t believe that any of these leaders were looking for their “WHY.” Instead, I believe that something happened in their lives that caused an emotional reaction. That reaction naturally instilled their driving purpose. This is the most powerful “WHY” a person can have. It’s also important to note that none of these leaders set out to “be first,” instead they set out to serve others.
I’m not an expert on the bible; but the master teacher said, “But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28.
The verse speaks to the failure of Samuel Pierpoint Langley. Who set out to be the first to achieve powered-man flight, which Sinek points out in his 2009 TED Talk.
Unfortunately, most of us are not so lucky when it comes to understanding our “WHY.” Although it is a simple concept, it’s derived by looking back on past personal experiences.
“Every company, organization or group with the ability to inspire starts with a person or small group of people who were inspired to do something bigger than themselves.“ – Simon Sinek
We live by many beliefs on a daily basis. These can also be limiting beliefs that cause us to fall into the working-for-work’s sake trap of the 40-hour work week.
To find your “WHY” I would recommend that you set goals balanced around the three most important areas of your life:
- Establish clear personal, family and health goals. These are your “WHY” goals.
- Determine your personal professional development goals. These are your “HOW” goals.
- Set your business, career and financial goals. These are your “WHAT” goals.
2. HAVE CLARITY, DISCIPLINE AND CONSISTENCY
Clarity of WHY – If you don’t know WHY you do WHAT you do, how will anyone else?Having clarity is what enables great leaders to articulate “WHY” their organization. It exists beyond its products and services. First to their employees, and then to their customers. To lead requires those who willingly follow. It requires being a part of something bigger than oneself. To inspire others to follow, starts with having clarity of WHY.
“People don’t buy “what” you do, they buy “why” you do it” – Simon Sinek
Discipline of HOW – Have clarity in WHY will lead you to the question of HOW will you do it? How you do things are your values or principles that bring your cause to life. Finding your “WHY” is simple, compared to having the discipline necessary to never veer from your cause. To be accountable to HOW you do things is the most difficult part.
“For values or guiding principles to be truly effective, they have to be verbs.“ – Simon Sinek
Sinek points out that it’s not “integrity”, it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.”
The discipline of “HOW” hinges on having the discipline to stay focused on the “WHY” (what you believe) to remain true to your values.
Consistency of WHAT – Everything you do and say, must prove what you believe. Your “WHAT” is the result of your beliefs and the actions you take to realize the belief. It’s everything you say or do; your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and the people you hire.
“If you’re not consistent in the things you say and do, no one will know what you believe.” – Simon Sinek
3. LEADERS NEED A FOLLOWING
Being a leader requires having people that choose to follow you. Trust must be established before anyone will make the decision to follow you. Trust doesn’t emerge simply because a customer makes a decision to buy something. Trust is not a checklist. Fulfilling all your responsibilities does not create trust.
Trust is a feeling that begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain. You must earn trust by communicating and demostrating that you share the same values and beliefs.
This leads us to the heretical belief of Herb Kelleher – Founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines. It’s the company’s responsibility to look after your employees first. Happy employees ensures happy customers. Happy customers ensures happy shareholders – in that order.
4. COMMUNICATION ISN’T ABOUT SPEAKING, IT’S ABOUT LISTENING
Most companies have logos, but few have been able to convert those logos into meaningful symbols. Most companies are bad at communicating what they believe, their “WHY.” Without clarity of “WHY,” a logo is nothing more than just that. To say that a logo stands for quality, service, innovation and the like only reinforces its status as just a logo. These qualities are about the company and not the about the cause.
For a logo to become a symbol, people must be inspired to use that logo to say something about who they are. In his book, “START WITH WHY” Sinek shares the profound example of Harley Davidson.
There are people who walk around with Harley-Davidson tattoos on their bodies — and some of them don’t even own the product! Why would a rational person tattoo a corporate logo on their bodies? Harley Davidson has been crystal clear about what they believe. After years of discipline about their “WHY” and being consistent in everything they say or do, their logo has become a symbol. It no longer identifies a company and it’s products; it identifies a belief.
“It’s not just WHAT or HOW you do things that matters; what matters more is that WHAT and HOW you do things is consistent with your WHY.” – Simon Sinek
Sinek share a simple metaphor called the “Celery Test” that you can apply to find out exactly WHAT and HOW is right for you.
5. SERVING THOSE THAT SERVE OTHERS
Being a great leader is like being a parent. Just as we provide our children opportunity — to build self confidence, education and discipline when necessary all so that they can achieve more that we can imagine.
Leadership is not a rank. While there are people that have authority, that does not make them a leader. There are people who have no authority, but they themselves are leaders.
We call them leaders because:
- They go first, they take the risk before anyone else does.
- They choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe, protected and so that they may gain.
When they do, the response is incredible. Their people will sacrifice for them, give them their blood, sweat and tears to see that their leaders vision comes to life. When they are asked “WHY” the response is always the same; “Because they would have done it for me. — Isn’t that the type of organization we all would like to work for? That’s the question Simon Sinek leaves us in his remarkable TED Talk, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” on YouTube.
Simon Sinek leaves us with some very valuable lessons to improve ourselves personally and professionally.
What leadership lessons have made the biggest impact in your life?