A while back I stumbled upon Simon Sinek’s TedTalk (see full video at the end), Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and quickly followed up with his book. He speaks to what makes a leader “successful” in the terms of why.

Very few leaders or companies in our society create movements. Very few leaders or companies inspire a sense of community and loyalty. Many “leaders” or people in power put a lot of merit in transactional based relationships.

For reference, take a look at history. Leaders like Martin Luther King Junior, the Wright Brothers. Or a company like Apple.  These leaders started a movement with an organic and very loyal following. How? The thing that separates these leaders and companies from the rest is that they think and communicate the exact same way. They start with why.

“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” -Simon Sinek

The Golden Circle

There is a useful and powerful framework Simon uses to define effective leadership: the Golden Circle. At the heart of the circle is WHY. The immediate outer circle is how and the last circle is WHAT.

Every leader and company knows their WHAT. They can tell you about their products, the industry they reside in, and all about their competitors. Some leaders and companies can also tell you HOW they do what they do. Their differentiators, values, etc. Very few leaders and companies know how to effectively articulate WHY.  Your WHY is why anyone should even care to buy into your service or purchase a product you sell. 

“When most organizations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason — they go from clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.”

“When communicating from the inside out, however, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHATs serve as the tangible proof of that belief.”

Apple Starts with Why

A good example outline in Sinek’s book is Apple. Apple is a computer company. Apple is a consumer electronics company. Apple is a smartphone company. These are statements of WHAT. Makes you want to run out and buy an Apple, right? I can’t read your mind, but I’m thinking, no. 

WHY – Think Different

HOW – Consistently innovating beautifully designed, user friendly, and new digital products

WHAT – We sell computers, phones, and tablets

Apple starts with WHY. In the early 2000’s, Apple came out with their campaign to communicate their WHY called “Think Different.” Apple has always be a disruptor and innovator. They disrupted the computer industry in the ’70’s and ’80’s with the Apple computer. In the early 2000’s they disrupted the music industry with the iPod. And again with the mobile industry in 2007 by introducing the iPhone to the world. Every single time, they stayed true to their WHY, “Think Different.”

Millions upon millions of consumers identify Apple’s WHY. It’s why there are groups of people camp out overnight and line up around the block and to the parking lot for days and hours to get their hands on the NEWEST Apple iPhone or product. This is the reason why consumers are willing to pay ridiculous prices. 

“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” -Simon Sinek

How Do You Identify Your Why?

In order to build trust with your customers or followers. You need to be genuine and have authenticity. It means your or your company’s HOW (actions), WHAT (end result) and WHY (beliefs) must all be consistent. In order to weave these together harmoniously, you need:

  • Clarity of WHY
  • Discipline of HOW
  • Consistency of WHAT

True fulfillment comes when an individual understand what drives them and not necessarily, what they are “good at” or “what the company thinks they should do.” Leaders and just individuals in general, should ask, “WHY” at least three times for every decision or action. Eventually, you will figure out what your beliefs are and you will find a whole new passion you never knew you had. This will help you articulate WHY to your friends, consumers, colleagues and you will find a following of the right people. Do this and watch your community grow exponentially.