Imagine a TEDx conference that took place in Puget Sound back in 2009. It had a decent but not too large crowd. Among the speakers was an unknown person who used to be a law school student but later became a marketer. At first, he faced technical difficulties during his talk, but he managed to grab everyone’s attention with a simple question: “why?” His main point was that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Surprisingly, this talk became one of TED’s most popular, titled “Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” and it was given by Simon Sinek.
So, in this blog we’ll focus on two key aspects: creating an inspiring vision and effectively communicating it. Using examples like Apple, we’ll explain the concept of the “Golden Circle” and how it relates to inspirational leadership.
Learn about some practical tips for implementing these concepts in your business endeavors. It’s time to find your “why” and put it into action. Let’s start this journey of inspiration and discover how you can motivate others without any delay.
Inspiration and Manipulation in Business
To become an inspirational leader, it’s crucial to understand the distinction between inspiration and manipulation when influencing others. Inspirational leaders motivate people by sharing a compelling vision and values, while manipulative leaders use incentives and tactics to push individuals into certain actions. Although many companies strive to be inspirational, some resort to manipulation to drive sales.
Manipulation, in this context, doesn’t involve brainwashing people. Instead, it relies on strategies like offering discounts, limited-time offers, or other incentives to entice customers into making purchases. We encounter these tactics every day in various marketing messages, urging us to seize opportunities like “50% off,” “buy two, get one free,” or “limited supplies available.” Although these methods might yield short-term success, they fail to cultivate long-term customer loyalty.
The problem with manipulation lies in its inability to foster genuine connections between the company and its customers. Customers attracted by incentives become loyal to the deals, not the brand itself. In challenging economic times or when prices increase, these customers quickly abandon the company in search of better offers elsewhere. Their loyalty was never to the company’s values or purpose but to the discounts they received.
In contrast, let’s examine Apple, an iconic company often viewed as inspirational. On the surface, Apple appears similar to any other corporation producing computers and phones. Although their products are well-designed and functional, they face criticism like any other company.
What sets Apple apart is its refusal to rely on manipulative tactics like discounts and deals. For instance, the new iPhone might cost $1000, while competitors like Samsung offer similar features for a lower price. Yet, customers eagerly line up for the new iPhone while not displaying the same enthusiasm for Samsung’s phones.
Apple’s success lies in its ability to inspire customers. It starts with a clear “why” – a purpose that extends beyond making and selling products. As Simon Sinek famously said in his TED Talk, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” Apple effectively communicates its “why,” resonating deeply with customers and creating an emotional connection to the brand.
Apple inspires people by focusing on innovation, challenging the status quo, and creating products that enhance lives. This purpose-driven approach fosters a community of loyal customers who identify with Apple’s mission and feel a strong connection to the brand.
To become an inspirational leader or company like Apple, start with a clear and compelling purpose. Communicate your “why” effectively and connect emotionally with your audience. Avoid relying on short-term manipulative tactics and focus on inspiring others to join you on your journey towards a shared vision. By doing so, you can build a devoted following that will support you even through challenging times, ensuring long-term success and sustainability.
The Power of Purpose in Business
Let’s travel back in time to Northern California at the end of the sixties. The country is experiencing a spirit of protest and uprising, and young people are challenging those in power. Among them are two nerdy-looking young men named Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, who are filled with an anti-establishment spirit. In this historical context, Apple’s spiritual core takes shape.
At the same time, the computer revolution is quietly unfolding. Technology is advancing rapidly, and the personal computer is about to become a reality. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs see this as their chance to make a difference. They believe that computers can empower individuals and challenge the status quo. For them, it’s not just about making money; it’s about fulfilling a deeper mission.
Here, we come across a key concept called the Golden Circle, introduced by Simon Sinek. It’s a pattern that can be found in the success stories of great leaders and thinkers, like Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers, as well as Apple. The Golden Circle consists of three concentric circles: the why, the how, and the what.
The what represents the activities of a business or organization. For Apple, it involves making computers and phones.
The how illustrates the way the what is achieved. It’s about the unique approach and special qualities that make a business stand out.
The why describes the mission or purpose of a business. For Apple, it is to think differently, challenge the status quo in creative ways, and empower individuals.
The why is particularly important because it resonates on an emotional level. People are drawn to individuals and organizations that share their core beliefs and values. Apple’s customers aren’t just buying products; they are buying into the company’s belief in challenging the norm in a creative way.
This focus on purpose also helps differentiate Apple from competitors like Dell. When Dell launched an MP3 player in 2003, it failed to resonate with customers because it lacked a deeper mission. On the other hand, Apple’s iPod succeeded because it aligned with the company’s purpose of challenging the music industry and doing things differently.
Understanding the why is crucial for attracting customers, especially innovators and early adopters. These are the individuals who embrace new ideas and love being at the forefront of innovation. They are drawn to visionary leaders and companies that know their purpose. Once you win over these early enthusiasts, they will spread the word about your products and services.
Moreover, knowing your why is essential for hiring the right people. When your purpose is clear, you’ll naturally attract those who share the same values. These passionate individuals will be committed to your mission and contribute to the company’s success in the long run.
In summary, Apple’s success story is not just about making computers and phones. It’s about having a deeper purpose: challenging the status quo and empowering individuals. By understanding their why, Apple has been able to attract customers who share their values and hire passionate individuals who are dedicated to their mission. This focus on purpose has set Apple apart and made it a game-changer in the world of technology.
How to Discover and Communicate Your Purpose as a Leader
You might be thinking that understanding the purpose of your company is essential and should be easy to implement. However, it’s not as simple as it seems.
Here’s the problem: Even though knowing “why” should be at the core of any company, most founders and leaders actually don’t know what their why is. They can explain what they do and how they do it, but when it comes to why their company exists, they struggle to answer. Some may mention that they wanted to start a company, or admit they’re in it for the money, or give a vague answer about making the world a better place.
This is a significant issue because if you, as a leader, don’t know the purpose of your company, why would anyone else care? How can you expect your employees to have a sense of purpose if you don’t have one yourself? And why would customers buy your products if they don’t understand what your company stands for?
Now, let’s get practical and explore three useful points to help you as a leader discover and communicate your purpose effectively.
Step 1: Finding Your Purpose
Finding your purpose, whether in life or for your company, can be challenging. It may take a long time, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find it quickly. One piece of advice is to look into your past and identify patterns.
Ask yourself: What were you known for? How did people perceive you? What made you special? Often, your purpose lies in these observations. For example, Simon Sinek, the author of this concept, did some introspection during a time of struggle and realized he was always seen as an eternal optimist who inspired others to take action. He dedicated his life to inspiring others, which became his “why.”
Step 2: Communicating Your Purpose Clearly
Once you’ve discovered your purpose, the next step is to communicate it effectively. Many leaders fail because they struggle to convey their message. To do this, we revisit the “Golden Circle” concept, with the “why” at the core, the “how” in the middle, and the “what” on the outer ring.
To be an inspiring leader, always communicate from the inside out. Start with why you do things, then move on to how you do them, and finally, explain what you do. Most companies communicate in the opposite direction, which is less appealing. Apple, for instance, launched the iPod by stating their why first: “We want to revolutionize how music is distributed and consumed.” Then they followed with the how and the what.
Remember to apply this approach in all communications, including internal and marketing messages. When setting up job ads, put the why first to attract the right employees who resonate with your purpose.
Step 3: Delegate the How and Focus on the Why
As a leader, your primary role is to represent the why of your company. As the company grows, it’s easy to get lost in daily operations. However, your focus should remain on the purpose. Rely on senior executives who share your vision to handle the how and establish the infrastructure to make your purpose tangible.
Don’t try to manage everything yourself. Instead, concentrate on inspiring others to take action, and remind your employees regularly why they joined the company and why they are passionate about the mission. By communicating the why clearly, everything else will fall into place.
Understanding and communicating your purpose as a leader are crucial for the success of your company. Discovering your why might take time, but looking into your past and identifying patterns can be helpful. When communicating, remember to start with your why, followed by how and what. By focusing on your purpose and delegating the how, you can inspire your team and lead your company to success.
Let’s conclude with a captivating analogy that beautifully illustrates the power of inspiration, based on a story from “Start With Why.” Imagine two medieval stonemasons working at a vast construction site. When asked about their jobs, the first stonemason expresses dissatisfaction, focusing on the hardships and uncertainties. In contrast, the second stonemason, while acknowledging the challenges, exudes enthusiasm, explaining that he loves his work because he is building a cathedral.
Both stonemasons are engaged in the same task, but the second one operates with a profound sense of purpose and inspiration. He knows the “why” behind his efforts, and that makes all the difference. As a leader, your crucial role is to instill this sense of purpose among your team members, consistently reminding them of the cathedrals they are building. When individuals comprehend the greater significance of their work, they become inspired and driven to excel, contributing their best to the collective vision. So, as you lead, remember to ignite the flame of purpose in those you guide, and witness how they build their cathedrals with unwavering passion and dedication.
Inspired by a book “Start With Why”; Simon Sinek