How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Posted by on Jan 23, 2013 in ComLead, Organizational Leadership

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Why does your organization exist? Why should you get out of bed in the morning? Why should anyone care?

Author Simon Sinek asks these questions in one of the most popular TEDtalks to date. With almost 8 million views, his 18-minute talk outlines one simple principle: real leaders don’t plan, they inspire. Drawing on the examples of some of the world’s most influential leaders and businesses, Sinek’s approach distills the seemingly mystical formula for inspiration into a simple communication framework he calls “The Golden Circle.”

Starting with Why

The Golden Circle models how leaders communicate using three main messages: WHAT they do, HOW they do it, and WHY. According to Sinek, the most motivating messages – central in the Golden Circle – start with WHY. Peripheral but still important are the messages that answer WHAT and HOW.

Golden Circle model

Sinek says we can inspire action by starting with WHY: painting a vivid image of our beliefs and passions, before explaining the details of achieving them.

How It Works

Think about it in terms of a Presidential election. In the recent months of the 2012 Presidential Election, candidates tried to persuade Americans that they were the best person to tackle the nation’s challenges. They often talked about WHAT they were going to do: 12-point plans, 3-pronged strategies, new legislation, and so on. They mentioned the HOWs, too: bi-partisan cooperation, belt-tightening and budget-cutting.

But what really earn our vote, according to Sinek, are the more abstract WHYs. We vote for a candidate not because of her plans or strategies, but because she believes in America’s youth. She believes the middle class are what make this country great. He has a vision for a healthier nation.

People, Purpose, Passion

Sinek holds fast to the rule that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Yet he reminds us of an important distinction: they’re not following you for you, but for themselves. We ultimately place a vote note because we think the candidate deserves the position, but because we want to have the future he offers.

Ultimately, inspirational leadership according to The Golden Circle is all about others: offering a dream of the future and a way to be a part of the change.

Watch Simon Sinek’s full TEDtalk below.

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