“Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” —Sam Walton
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” —John Quincy Adams
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” —Ken Blanchard
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” —Vince Lombardi
“Throughout my years in business, I tried to always ask why we would do what we were doing the things we did.. The answers that I would invariably get are: ‘Oh, that’s just the way things are done around here.’ Nobody knows why they do what they do. Nobody thinks very deeply about things in business”. – Steve Jobs
All the great inspiring leaders and organizations in the world, whether it’s Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers, all think, act and communicate the exact same way. And it’s the complete opposite to everyone else.
Why is Apple so innovative? Year after year, after year, they’re more innovative than all their competition. And yet, they’re just a computer company. They’re just like everyone else. They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media. Then why is it that they seem to have something different?
Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? He wasn’t the only man who suffered in pre-civil rights America, and he certainly wasn’t the only great orator of the day. Why him? And why is it that the Wright brothers were able to figure out controlled, powered man flight when there were certainly other teams who were better qualified, better funded — and they didn’t achieve powered man flight, and the Wright brothers beat them to it. According to Simon Sinek, there’s something else at play here.
Why? How? What? This little idea explains why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire where others aren’t. Let me define the terms really quickly. Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent.
Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your unique selling proposition.
But, according to Sinek, very very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.
According to Simon Sinek author of “Start with Why”; If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?” “Meh.” That’s how most of us communicate. Here’s how Apple actually communicates. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” Totally different, right? You’re ready to buy a computer from me. I just reversed the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.
Most people don’t know about Samuel Pierpont Langley. And back in the early 20th century, the pursuit of powered man flight was like the dot com of the day. Everybody was trying it. And Samuel Pierpont Langley had, what we assume, to be the recipe for success. Even now, you ask people, “Why did your product or why did your company fail?” and people always give you the same permutation of the same three things: under-capitalized, the wrong people, bad market conditions. It’s always the same three things, so let’s explore that. Samuel Pierpont Langley was given 50,000 dollars by the War Department to figure out this flying machine. Money was no problem. He held a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian and was extremely well-connected; he knew all the big minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could find and the market conditions were fantastic. The New York Times followed him around everywhere, and everyone was rooting for Langley. Then how come we’ve never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?
A few hundred miles away in Dayton Ohio, Orville and Wilbur Wright, they had none of what we consider to be the recipe for success. They had no money; they paid for their dream with the proceeds from their bicycle shop; not a single person on the Wright brothers’ team had a college education, not even Orville or Wilbur; and The New York Times followed them around nowhere.
The difference was, Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll change the course of the world. Samuel Pierpont Langley was different. He wanted to be rich, and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result. He was in pursuit of the riches. And lo and behold, look what happened. The people who believed in the Wright brothers’ dream worked with them with blood and sweat and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck. They tell stories of how every time the Wright brothers went out, they would have to take five sets of parts, because that’s how many times they would crash before supper.
And, eventually, on December 17th, 1903, the Wright brothers took flight, and no one was there to even experience it. We found out about it a few days later. And further proof that Langley was motivated by the wrong thing: The day the Wright brothers took flight, he quit. He could have said, “That’s an amazing discovery, guys, and I will improve upon your technology,” but he didn’t. He wasn’t first, he didn’t get rich, he didn’t get famous, so he quit.
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.
In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the mall in Washington to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations, and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in a pre-civil rights America. In fact, some of his ideas were bad. But he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause, and they made it their own, and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day at the right time to hear him speak.
How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed, and it wasn’t about black versus white: 25% of the audience was white.
Dr. King believed that there are two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by men. And not until all the laws that are made by men are consistent with the laws made by the higher authority will we live in a just world.
It just so happened that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed, not for him, but for ourselves. By the way, he gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech.
Listen to politicians now, with their comprehensive 12-point plans. They’re not inspiring anybody. Because there are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win” “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” –John F. Kennedy
“Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy.” —Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” —Tony Blair
“When Mexico sends its people … they are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime and their rapists.” “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” “The point is, that you can never be too greedy.” “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” “The line of ‘Make America great again,’ the phrase, that was mine, I came up with it about a year ago, and I kept using it, and everybody’s now using it, they are all loving it. I don’t know. I guess I should copyright it.” – Donald Trump
This coming November we will have the opportunity to elect our great leader for our nation,, let’s hope that a great leader will appear on the ballot for us to choose from. At this point it appears that none of the great leaders working in our companies, our service organizations, or our families are willing or able to run against the presumptive nominees. God help us.