The simple approach that great leaders use to inspire action

Apple launchWhat makes Apple different to Dell? Both are computer companies, but how many times have you heard of people queuing for hours to buy the latest Dell and then posting a video of themselves opening it on Facebook?

New Apple products on the other hand generate a huge frenzy amongst excited fans clamouring to upgrade to the latest must-have iProduct.

The difference according to former ad exec turned author Simon Sinek lies in the approach that organisations like Apple take towards their thinking, acting and communication; and this can be demonstrated through the ‘Golden Circle’.

The ‘Golden Circle’

Golden circleHaving researched the success of influential leaders and companies, Sinek has devised a simple, but powerful approach for inspiring people to take action. Known as the Golden Circle, the model consists of three circles representing

  • What
  • How
  • Why

When asked why they think their customers choose their company, most businesses start with What, then move in towards the core of the circle answering How and finally Why.

Lets take Dell for example:

  • ‘What’ concerns features and outputs. For example, Dell provide reliable and affordable computers.
  • ‘How’ explains the way they achieve this. In this case Dell sell directly to customers and focus heavily on customer service.
  • ‘Why’ is the motivation. Dell’s mission is to be the most successful IT systems company in the world.

Leading organisations like Apple tackle this in a different way, by reversing the approach and beginning at the core with ‘Why‘.

  • ‘Why’ – Apple want to challenge the status quo by thinking differently.
  • ‘How’ – by making products with an eye-catching design that are easy to use.
  • ‘What’ – those products just happen to be computers.

What Sinek is essentially saying is people do not buy your product because of What you do, instead they buy because of Why you do it.

Dell may well sell reliable and affordable computers, but no-one cares if they become the most successful IT systems company. On the other hand people will pay a premium for Apple computers because they share the same belief in being individual, challenging the status quo and thinking differently.

If this all sounds a little bit funky, then lets not forget profit.

Notice how profit doesn’t even feature in the Apple’s Why. That’s because Apple doesn’t set out to be profitable; but as a side-effect of leading by it’s beliefs it has recently become the most profitable company in history.

Great leadership starts with Why

The same applies to individuals.

Martin Luther King inspired millions to campaign for civil rights changes in the US and in 1963 gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters, who had gathered for the March on Washington.

Unlike the mundane politicians of today with their 10 point plans (What), King rallied massive support by sharing his beliefs of freedom and equal opportunities for everyone (Why), repeatedly using the words…

I have a dream… I have a dream… I have a dream…

Remember people didn’t follow King because of what he wanted to do, they followed him because they shared the same beliefs, and it was this support that resulted in the re-shaping of modern America.

Aspirational leaders of today should take note…

The Simon Sinek TED Talk

This is the original presentation that Simon Sinek gave on the power of ‘Why‘, which quickly became the second most viewed TED Talk.

During the video you’ll hear more about the benefits of ‘Why‘, the science explaining what makes our brains prefer the ‘Why‘ over the ‘What‘ and how two underdogs called the Wright brothers became famous whilst their better financed competitor disappeared into history.

More resources

The ‘Start With Why’ website

The secret to successful storytelling lies in the Golden Circle


Image from blakespot

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