There are two books that have been pivotal pieces of literature in my development as a leader, not just in my professional life but also in my personal life. The first of these two books is called Learning to Lead by Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith. This book focuses on the difference between leaders and managers and debunking the myth that leaders are born rather than taught. The second of these books, Love Works by Joel Manby outlines seven timeless love-centered principals that are easy to relate to and easy to implement in your day-to-day life. In this blog miniseries on leadership, I will draw from the concepts that touched me from these books as well as wisdom from my personal experiences and professional development.
Starting With Why: The Golden Circle
Let’s start with an example of a really successful company: Apple. Why is Apple so innovative? Year after year they continue to set the curve in their industry and grow at a record-setting rate, yet they are really just a computer company. They have access to the same talent, agencies, resources, and media as their competitors, so why is it that they seem to have something different?
All great and inspiring leaders and organizations in the world act, think, and communicate in a way that is the complete opposite of all others. I am going to explain this unique mindset using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is made of three nested layers: why, how and what. Most people think from the outside in: from what, to how, to why. This makes sense, since the human tendency is to move from the clearest concept to the fuzziest. However, inspired leaders and organizations, regardless of their industry, think from the inside of the circle outwards. Everyone knows what they do and how they do it, but it’s much harder to understand why they do it. And by why I do not mean to make profit – that is a result. Why means the purpose, the cause, the belief. Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning?
Let’s see how the Golden Circle concept relates to Apple. If Apple’s marketing message was like others it would sound like this: we make great computers (what), they are beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly (how) – wanna buy one? You can see that the why is missing in this statement. But if you are familiar with Apple products, you know that this is not their USP. Apple starts with why: We believe in challenging the status quo by thinking differently (why); we challenge the status quo by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly (how); we just happen to make great computers (what).
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. When we talk from the outside of the Golden Circle toward the inside we are communicating features and benefits, facts and results instead of behavior. But when we talk from the inside out we are controlling behavior by helping our customers rationalize their decision making process.
The Golden Circle can also be applied to hiring practices. If you hire people because of what they do they will focus on working for a paycheck. If you hire people for why behind what they do, for motivations that match your company vision, they will work with you with their blood, sweat, and tears. The goal is not to hire people for what they do but for what you believe in. By changing the way you think, speak and act as a leader to be focused on the why, you will attract employees that are also motivated by those beliefs and in turn empower your organization from the inside out.