In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek elaborates on how the world’s most influential leaders act, think, and communicate the same way. By going against the tide, these leaders can create the sort of foundation for establishing successful companies and inspiring people. Their secret lies in understanding why.
The Golden Circle
Sinek came up with a model he calls the Golden Circle. In it, he points to three terms – the what, the how, and the why. Most individuals and companies know what they do and how they do it, but few understand why they do it. Using the golden circle concept, achieving success requires you to work from the inside going out, that is, always start with the why, then go to the how, and finally the what. Here’s a breakdown of the three terms.
It’s relatively easy for any organization to understand what they do. For instance, a law firm sells legal services, a bakery sells pastries, a theme park sells experiences – you get the drift. But understanding the what only gets you so far. Banking on your organization’s what won’t land you the kind of recognition and success you hope to achieve.
As an organization, there are those actions that help you achieve what you’ve set out to do. A law firm, for example, hires the best attorneys in the business, a bakery sources the freshest ingredients, a theme park sets up a bunch of thrilling rides. All the steps your organization takes to achieve its goals entail the how. Articulating your how only gets you two-thirds of the way.
As a leader, understanding your why involves grasping your organization’s cause and the core beliefs that fuel you. People aren’t nearly as inspired by what you do as much as they’re inspired by why you do it. Once you grasp your organization’s why it becomes a lot easier to fuel your mission and communicate that across your team.
Why Understanding Your Why Works
There’s some interesting neuroscience behind Sinek’s Golden Circle theory. Human beings tend to respond best to messages that resonate with parts of their limbic system (the part of the brain responsible for decision making, behavior, and emotions). By successfully communicating the purpose and passion behind your organization, you tap into people’s limbic system and influence their behavior. Understanding and practicing this concept is what differentiates your organization from others.
In Sinek’s words, people don’t merely buy what you do, they buy why you do it. That’s why certain brands have such a massive following and a loyal customer base. They’ve learned how to tap into the why of their brand and successfully engage customers.
In a Nutshell
Great leadership requires a unique approach. If you hope for your organization to achieve the highest echelons of success, you need to work out the why of what you’re doing and communicate that to your team and the world. Knowledge is power and knowing your why heavily impacts how much you’ll achieve.