Videos

Real Leaders Communicate From The Inside Outwards

March 30, 2023 - By Simon Sinek, American author on leadership and motivational speaker.

Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ book is a brilliant explanation of the fact that what motivates people both inside and outside an organisation is that its leadership have determined, articulated and communicated the organisation’s ‘why’ or noble purpose. They have given people a reason or a cause that is worth rising above their self-interest for. Legitimate Leadership refers to this as the ‘benevolent intent’ of the organisation. What truly motivates people at work though is when there is a clear line of sight between what they do in their roles, what their function does, and the bigger purpose of the organisation. The purpose at every level is not about what is done but what ‘what is done’ does for those the organisation exists to serve. In every instance, what motivates people and what inspires others is the ‘give’, not the ‘get’ behind what is done.

OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO EXCERPT: I was struck by something that Neil Armstrong said: that he was grateful to be led by people who inspired him to yearn for that place, to yearn. Listen to that, that give such a wonderful feeling and so it begs the question, “What does it mean to lead, why do people do what they do?”

I’m fascinated by this idea of leadership. I read the same books as everyone else, I read the same books on ‘learn your style of leadership’ and ‘how to adjust your style of leadership to fit to the situation at hand’, etc.

But that’s not leadership, that’s management.

All leaders have one thing and one thing only: followers.

It has nothing to do with rank or intelligence; it has nothing to do with seniority. If people are willing to follow you, you are a leader.

The question then is what a follower is.

A follower is somebody who volunteers to go where you want to go, someone who raises their hand and says, ‘I choose to follow you’.

We can get people to do all kinds of things using authority. That doesn’t make you a leader.

A leader is when someone says, ‘I volunteer to go where you’re going.’

The question is why should anyone follow you?

There’s only two ways to influence human behavior: you can either manipulate people or you can inspire them.

Examples of manipulation in the business world are things like dropping your price.

If you drop your price low enough people will buy from you. We know this – promotions two-for-one, free-toy-inside, or if you’re in the business-to-business space we call it value-added.

The concept is the same – it’s giving things away for free to reduce someone’s risk, so they’ll choose you over the competition. And it works.

Innovation – what organizations like to call ‘innovation’ – is really novelty.

Real innovation changes the course of industries if not the way we live our lives. Adding a camera to your cell phone is a wonderful feature but it is not an innovation.

It’s the difference between steps and leaps.

What most organizations think is innovation is really novelty, it’s the latest shiny thing.

Example: Colgate toothpaste. In the 1970s there were only two choices of Colgate toothpaste in the US. There are now 27 different choices of Colgate toothpaste because competition increased and the metric went down. They added a new product and the population went ‘ooh, shiny’. We’re all drawn to it.

The problem is the competition copied, and then the metric went down. It worked the first time, so they do it again and they added another product and another and another, and before you know it you have 27 different line extensions.

Which means that their competition is offering about the same number of products at about the same price, the same quality and the same service – literally hundreds of choices of toothpaste to choose from. And yet I have no data to show that people are brushing their teeth now more than they were before.

And the best part is what do these companies complain about now, what’s their biggest challenge?

‘How do we differentiate ourselves?’

This is hilarious to me.

How do we get out of a problem that we created for ourselves?

There are all kinds of other manipulations.

Fear is wonderful manipulator, as parents know.

Aspirational messages – we’re constantly being told you have to be aspirational, give people something to aspire to – you can get people to join the gym with an aspirational message. But to get them to work out three days a week requires a little bit of inspiration.

Now I cannot dispute that these and many other manipulations work.

The problem is none of them breed loyalty; and none of them create trust. And over the course of time they cost more money, which someone has to pay for. And over the course of time, they increase stress both for the buyer and for the seller.

It is stressful for us to make decisions today in a world in which manipulation is the norm, where we are bombarded by manipulations from all sides, from all people trying to get us to do any number of things – vote for them, buy from them, or do something.

The question is: how do we choose what’s right for us?

But it’s stressful for the sellers as well in a marketplace where manipulation is the norm. They ask: how do we stand out, how do we find people to follow us?

The alternative is inspiration and there are only a few people and a few organizations or individual leaders that rely vastly more on inspiration than manipulation – like Apple Computers, Southwest Airlines, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.

What I learned is that every one of these leaders, every one of these organizations, thinks and acts and communicates exactly the same way.

And it’s the complete opposite to everyone else.

It’s probably the world’s simplest idea. I call it the golden circle. It’s three concentric circles. In the middle is How; the ring outside that is What; and then there is Why, which distinguishes those with the capacity to inspire versus everyone else.

Let me define the terms. Every single organization on the planet knows what they do – the products they sell, the services they offer. Some know how they do it – whether they call it their differentiating value proposition, their USP or their proprietary process, these are the things that you think make you different or special or stand out from the competition.

But very, very few people and very few organizations can clearly articulate why they do what they do. And by ‘why’ I don’t mean ‘to make money’ – that’s a result.

By ‘why’ I mean what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief, why does your organization exist?

Do we really need another company to do what you’re doing? Why did you get out of bed this morning and why should anyone care?

As a result most organizations and leaders communicate from the outside in – it’s obvious, we go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We tell people what we do, we tell them how we’re different or how we’re better or how we’re special and we expect some sort of behavior – a vote, a purchase, support, whatever.

But those leaders with the capacity to inspire – regardless of their size or their industry – every single one of them thinks, acts and communicates from the inside out.

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