How do great leaders inspire action? And why do some leaders garner more loyalty than others? Simon O. Sinek, author and motivational speaker who also advises on military innovation on behalf of the RAND Corporation, believes that there is a “Why” element to inspiring action and loyalty.
In Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009), Sinek argues that employers and, on a larger scale, companies should work on incorporating the “Why” into future ideas, projects and products. This can inspire not only loyalty and motivation on behalf of employees, but also with current and future customers. Why should employees follow you into this latest venture? Why should customers buy this new product? A main idea behind Start With Why is that we tend to focus too much on “How?” or “What?”
One of Sinek’s leading examples is Apple. While there are plenty of computer and portable electronics manufacturers that can tell you to buy their products because of their features. Apple, and its former head Steve Jobs, did a far better job at telling people to buy their products because of their specs while also working in other reasons to answer, “Why should I buy an Apple product?” For those asking “Why” when it came to buying an Apple product, Apple could point to their refusal to conform with industry practices and Apple’s search for innovative design. It was a revolution of sorts, and wouldn’t a potential customer want to join this revolution? It’s a rather abstract idea, but certainly explains the reasoning behind Sinek’s arguments.
Another idea in Start With Why that defines how great leaders become great not by manipulation but by inspiration and motivation. Examples of this include Bill Gates, who inspires people and Steve Ballmer who, unlike Gates may not inspire as much, but can certainly motivate. Leaders like these avoid manipulation and instead rely on building loyalty with both employees and customers.
Simon O. Sinek’s Start With Why has also been delivered as a TED Talk, and it is the third highest rated TED Talk.