What motivates people to act? There’s a mental switch that mobilizes people to action, whether it’s a purchase decision or the ability to inspire a group of employees to start working on a key project. According to leadership expert Simon Sinek, the push-button activates when a leader leads with their “Why.” It is the defining factor that leads businesses to success. This philosophy is the central focus of his best-selling book, “Start with Why”
Introduction to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle
Sinek’s Golden Circle illustrates how all individual leaders and organizations who start with Why “think, act, and communicate”. The concept was inspired by the golden ratio, a centuries-old mathematical equation that calculates beauty based on an object’s ratio of symmetry.
The Golden Circle is based on science and corresponds to the human brain. For instance, he found, Why and How speak to the oldest part of the brain: the limbic system, which controls emotions and behaviour. The neocortex is responsible for analytical thought and language; this area of the mind helps us rationalize our decisions. When it comes to influencing the actions of workers or consumers, all three are critical.
Exploring Each Circle
Sinek’s visual representation of his formula for inspiring people into action involves three concentric circles: Why, How and What
Inner Circle: Why: The first step in leading with Why is knowing what it is. It speaks to a leader’s cause and belief that drives them to start a movement that achieves a better future through a collective goal.
To find your company’s Why, think about the collective cause or belief your business exists for. How does your organization serve a better vision of the future? Why does your company matter? How does your business’s purpose help customers achieve their own purpose? What group do your clients want to belong to?
Middle Circle: How: The next step is considering your How, the way in which your organization fulfils its mission.
Discover your business’s How by considering: What your company does to differentiate itself from its competitors? Which exciting developments motivate employees and customers? Where does your organization provide the most value? What could positively influence the decision-making process?
Outer Circle: What: Sinek argues most businesses have their What down pat. They actually lead with What, operating the circle from the outside-in. This occurs because What is the most tangible, while why is the least clear-cut.
Include your organization’s What by determining: What products or services you sell? What actions the company takes to make their Why a reality? The roles and responsibilities individual employees take on.
What does The Golden Circle look like?
Sinek uses Apple as the perfect example of a company that uses “Why, How, What” to create a brand. Steve Jobs was a genius at using their purpose to inspire people into action. Their 1997 “Think Different” campaign is a great example.
Sinek says the company communicates its core message like this: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. It speaks directly to customers who resonate with nonconformity. Yet, this type of message creates a sense of belonging.
Airbnb is another great example of a company that leads with their Why. The business’s leaders understand that speaking to their customers’ limbic system is incredibly important. It shows the CEO understands the importance of leading from within The Golden Circle.
How They Put Their Why to Work
This message is repetitive throughout Airbnb’s various brand touchpoints. Airbnb’s mission is to “help create a world where you can belong anywhere and where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.”. The part describes their How: “where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.”. This is what differentiates Airbnb from other rental sites. Since 2012, they’ve partnered with over 50,000 refugees and those who need homes with a free place to stay. This proves their – Why – their mission is far greater than their What.
Start with Why Using These Leadership Styles
Simon Sinek’s formula for helping leaders guide purpose-driven teams isn’t effective unless a leader uses two particular leadership styles as a conduit for their Why. These two distinct leadership styles are transformational leadership and servant leadership.
Transformational leaders have a crystal clear, well-communicated, inspiring vision of a brighter future that emotionally resonates with others. Servant leaders serve a purpose far greater than themselves (their Why). As people who put others’ needs above their own, they positively influence others to join their cause through their words, actions, and behaviours.
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