Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. – Start With Why p. 6
If you enjoy TED talks, you’ll enjoy Start With Why. Simon Sinek’s explanation of “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” through the “The Golden Circle” and “The WHY” is the third most watched clip in TED’s history with 26.7 million views.
For a group of over 26 million people to spend 18 minutes doing the same thing is remarkable. In comparison, the new Game of Thrones premiere on HBO brought 10.7 million viewers together and broke the HBO record.
Sinek brings out many of the same points in his book and is able to expand and apply the concepts that he touches on in this video. A phrase you’ll hear repeated throughout is that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
In this week’s video, I start off with the now-famous newspaper ad Ernest Shackleton put in an early 1900s London newspaper:
Men Wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
Sinek argues that an ad like that brought together individuals who were united by their burning desire to overcome, to face long odds, to survive. When Shackleton assembled a team of overcomers like this, they set off to traverse Antarctica.
But the expedition was ill-fated, the Endurance, was crushed in the ice before they ever reached the southern continent. Yet the men were undaunted. Shackleton led his intrepid band across the frozen sea 828 miles to Elephant Island. During this ordeal not a single explorer perished.
Sinek says that individuals who are able to tap into this well of inner strength and fortitude of individuals have accessed their “WHY.”
In fact, we are designed with our limbic brain and through our subconscious minds to attach to certain values and actions in a way that generally cannot be accurately described in words. Usually we can find a logical reason for the way we act, but in general we act on our “gut” feeling. (p.53-64)
This gets us closer to the central premise that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
The “WHY” of an organization or movement, according to Sinek, is usually embodied by an individual. Someone like Steve Jobs, who made everything he did about challenging the status quo, inspired a company that disrupted several industries.
People, when asked why they bought Apple products, could come up with any number of seemingly logical explanations but in many cases it was because they resonated with the “WHY” of challenging the status quo. It was a certain type of person who sat outside the Apple store for the next model iPhone.
They could have gotten a similar phone with nearly identical specifications from a different brand or just waited a week and got an iPhone later, but they were busy buying the “WHY” of Apple. The “What” had to trail behind.
This doesn’t mean that companies or individuals can tap into a “WHY” and then run rampant. Several weeks back we took a look at Sam Walton. He embodied customer service in his retailing, and every action that Walmart took while he was alive was to serve people. This built their business into one of the largest companies in the world, but after Walton passed away, the corporation lost the “WHY.”
Today, if you go to Walmart, you’ll find a very different store than the ones described in Made in America.
You and I have the opportunity to tap into this well of motivation as well. We are well supplied throughout history with individuals who found their “WHY.”
Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi identified their why and inspired a movement that went far beyond their personal influence.
Sinek encourages you and I to inspire rather than manipulate, and I agree with him.
Start with your Why.
Just don’t get shipwrecked in Antarctica.
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