“Being a leader requires one thing and one thing only: followers. A follower is someone who volunteers to go where you are going. They choose to go not because they have to, not because they were incentivized to, not because they were threatened to, but because they want to. Great leaders inspire. The question is, why would anyone follow you?”
Why are some people and organizations able to inspire, influence, and command loyalty far greater than others? Why are so few amongst even these accomplished leaders able to repeat their successes again and again?
Sinek argues that most leaders talk about WHAT they do or HOW they do it, yet very few leaders talk about WHY they do what they do. Only by starting with WHY, having a clear understanding of one’s purpose, can a leader really inspire others. When a WHY is unambiguous, it is easier for people to find their way to it. Some may identify so strongly with it, that they want to help in making it become a reality. Wilbur and Orville Wright, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, and Martin Luther King Jr. all started with WHY. These great leaders were clear about their purpose and what they believed in. They inspired people to join their cause.
There are relatively few organizations and leaders who seem to have a natural ability to inspire and maintain long-lasting success. Sinek discovered that the leaders and companies who do consistently inspire “all think, act and communicate exactly alike.” Sinek believes, consciously or not, these leaders are all following a naturally occurring pattern he calls “The Golden Circle.” They start with WHY, clarifying their purpose, cause or belief. Then, with HOW, they explain why their company’s product or service is different or better than its competition. Lastly, with WHAT they explain what their company does; the products or services they sell.
We have a natural desire to belong, to feel connected. As part of belonging we seek out people who share our values and beliefs. “When a company clearly communicates their WHY, what they believe, and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.” These brands become symbols, making us feel like we belong to something greater than ourselves.
Sinek supports his theory on the power of WHY with biology. When individuals or businesses start with WHAT, they begin by communicating information, and are speaking to the logical, methodical part of our brain. The result is uninspired decisions where we are not committed to the brand. When communicating their WHY a company is speaking directly to that part of the brain that drives behavior and controls how we feel about their product. These organizations are more likely to win our hearts, since we are driven by our hearts to purchase that particular brand.
Once you have a clear understanding of WHY you do what you do, you then need to clarify how you will do it. “HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW to bring your cause to life.” HOW is reflected in the systems and processes within an organization. It is making sure everyone within the organization is accountable to staying true to the company values.
“Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions—everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire.” When organizations really believe in what they say and do, what they say and do is authentic. Relationships are built through authenticity. Through authentic relationships trust is built, and with trust comes loyalty.
Great leaders and organizations have the discipline to maintain clarity of purpose year after year. Those loyal to them are both inside and outside their organizations. Their influence reaches far and wide, making great advances within their own industries and often beyond as well.
Founder at 100Ninjas.
Bananagram Master. Smoothie Mixologist. Seeker of the cozy. Art lover.