How Great Leaders Inspire Us to Take Action


This post is a summary of a session from the MMI’s 2011 Annual Convention.

The speaker was Simon Sinek, Renowned Leadership Expert and author of Start With Why.

“There are ‘leaders’ and ‘those who lead’,” Simon asserted.  Most companies have no clue why their customers are their customers.  They only think they know. Simon explained that there are two ways to change human behavior — through manipulation or through inspiration.

Manipulation

There are numerous ways that companies try to manipulate people to buy, Simon proposed.  The biggest one is fear, but others are price cuts, aspirational messages and peer pressure.  A company might claim that ‘70% of the industry is using our service’.  But what about the other 30%?  Maybe they know something that we don’t?

There’s a huge difference between innovation and novelty, Simon argued.  Real innovation changes the course of industries, if not society itself. Take the fax machine versus the camera phone.  The first is innovative and changed the way we communicate.  The other is just a feature added to an existing product. It’s novelty. “Novelty isn’t innovation,” Simon reminded us, emphatically.  Innovation is often less, not more, since less is more powerful than more (see Apple’s minimalist line of products).

Adding features doesn’t breed loyalty, so how do we stand out in a crowded marketplace? The alternative is inspiration.

Inspiration

Regardless of industry, great communicators think, act and communicate the exact same way, which is the complete opposite to everyone else.  They have the most loyal companies and employees.  What are they doing differently?

The Golden Circle

This looks just like a bullseye, with the words ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ inside. Innovative companies work from the inside out. They define ‘why’ they exist before anything else. All other companies do the opposite. They decide ‘what’ they will make or do and ‘how’ they will do it, but never get to the ‘why’, Simon commented.

By WHY, he means why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? And why should
anyone care?

Innovative companies like Apple and SouthWest Airlines have clear, consistent values and are experts at communicating them. Many visionaries aren’t leaders because they lack the ability to communicate effectively.

Apple’s employees love it there because they’re given a reason to come to work — they find an industry where the status quo has always been accepted and they destroy it.

What is a company? Simon’s definition is, “it’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs”. People respond to the unfamiliar by seeking out other people that share their values and beliefs. An owner of an Apple computer can instantly connect with another Apple computer owner. The computer they purchased becomes a symbol and defines who they are. Anyone else that displays the same symbol most likely shares their values and beliefs. It’s human nature to seek out symbols to feel like we belong.

The difference is between buying a product or service because you ‘like’ the company versus buying it because you ‘love’ the company.  People ‘like’ Dell, but they ‘love’ Apple.  Love is an emotion and drives behavior.  It’s irrational. Like is a feeling and is quite rational.  Getting people to love your company is the difference between repeat business and customer loyalty.

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