Knowing my interest in creative leadership, a friend shared a TEDx video titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action.
The speaker, Simon Sinek, has codified a common pattern among great leaders, who think, act and communicate differently from others. He calls this pattern The Golden Circle.
When marketing a product or service, the typical organization begins with the outer rim of the circle, or the what. They focus on product features and benefits. Because everyone knows what they do, explaining it requires little effort. Unfortunately, says Sinek, people don’t buy what you do.
The middle tier is the how. Think of this tier as your value proposition, your organization’s proprietary process or the strategies you follow to make your vision real.
Some people know this and can articulate it but, again, it’s hard to make people care. People don’t buy how you do what you do.
The circle’s center is the why. Very few people know why they do what they do.
What differentiates inspired leaders is that they not only know why, they inspire by articulating it first and then move outward to the other two tiers. People buy why you do it.
In his Ted Talk, Sinek uses Apple, the Wright Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King as examples.
These leaders communicated their purpose, passion, cause or belief first. By focusing on why someone should care, they engaged their followers. Like Apple, they reminded us to think differently.
A memorable point Sinek makes is that The Golden Circle mirrors the three sections of the human brain. The outer section, the neocortex, corresponds to the what. It’s the rational part of our brain.
The middle two sections are the limbic brain. They are the centers for emotion and decision making. By starting with this part of the brain, you speak directly to the brain’s decision-maker. By sharing what you believe, you attract those who believe what you believe. Master storytellers target this part of the brain.
The Law of Diffusion of Innovation
Why is this law so important for marketers? If you want mass market adoption for a product or idea, you need 15 to 18 percent penetration. At that point, the market tips. Reaching the 2.5 percent who are innovators and the 13.5 percent who are early adopters is easy. They want to be first. They already believe.
What you need to gain mass-market acceptance is to inspire the early majority. They won’t try something unless someone else has already tried it. By reaching some of the early majority, you can close the chasm and tip.
We follow leaders not because we have to but because we want to. We follow them for ourselves.
Steps to take
To find your own why*, ask:
- What gets you out of bed in the morning?
- Why does your organization exist?
- What are you passionate about?
*Note that Sinek is not referring to profit, which he terms a result.
How does starting with the why you do what you do increase your ability to connect with others?