Simon Sinek summarized his famous TED Talk on great leaders (see below) with these words:
“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us.”
His point: Leaders and those who lead are not the same.
“Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves.”
How does that happen? How do leaders become someone who leads?
Start with figuring out the “Why”, says Sinek.
Individuals and organizations can all answer the question, what do you do? And that is usually the message given to customers, clients and the public. But few can answer the question why do you do it? The answer, ‘To make a profit’ doesn’t answer this question. The answer point to the result you or your organization want. What is meant by this question is, what is your reason for doing it, what is your purpose, why does your organization exist?
If you can answer this question and communicate it clearly, others will follow.
He gives the example of Apple. Apple doesn’t say: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?”
Apple’s message is: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
Sinek points out that the order of information in this message is reversed. This is an example of communication from the inside out.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
Sinek explains this is not his opinion, it is actually based in the tenets of biology.
The neocortex, corresponds with the “what” level. It can handle vast amounts of information, but it’s not responsible for decision-making. The limbic brain is. The limbic brain is responsible for our feelings, but it has no capacity for language. So, if we direct our communication at the neocortex with lots of facts and figures, people will understand, but the neocortex doesn’t drive behaviour. If we direct our message at the limbic brain by talking about what we belief in, why we are doing something, then the messages will hit our target.
“This explains why sometimes when you give a person all the facts and figures, they say, “I know what all the facts and details say, but it just doesn’t feel right.” Sinek explains in these circumstances we say it doesn’t “feel” right, because the part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn’t control language.
If your message touches something in your audience, if they believe what you believe, they will follow you, whether you are a political leader, a corporation or an individual fighting for a cause.
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”