Watch: How to inspire action as a leader

Have you ever wondered why Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and other world leaders have a greater edge than others, who have similar resources? How is it that when these people spoke, we listened, really listened?

In this famous TEDs Talk, Simon Sinek highlights the concept of a golden circle which is “a naturally occurring pattern” immersed in the decision-making skills of humans that explains why we are inspired by what some people, organizations and leaders say while we sideline the words of others.

Sinek compares the golden circle to a target with three rings that are labeled as what, how and why, starting from the outer circle. He explains that leaders are most comfortable in the outer realm as in by explaining the ‘what’ of the company, for instance what the company stands for, while some leaders are also comfortable speaking about the ‘how’ as in, how they do what they do. Sinek points out that most leaders miss out on the most important component which is the ‘why’ that explains the passion and motivation that drives a leader.

He explains how the component of the golden circle correspond to that of the human brain. The outer layer of a human’s brain in which logical thought and decision-making skills lie is represented by the ‘what’. The inner circles of ‘why’ and ‘how’ correspond to the limbic system that is responsible for generating feelings of trust and loyalty.

Citing the example of Apple, Sinek says that Apple’s sale statement and tagline begins with their purpose or ‘why’ and hence they can successfully sell any technological appliance since its easier for people to accept their ‘why’, while other companies are solely known for their ‘what’ and hence fail to connect with their users.

He then goes on to compare the Wright brothers with Samuel Langley, the latter who had an empire of wealth and fortune and all the resources he could possibly ask for. However, the Wright brothers were driven by their passion to change the course of history and hence achieved flight first, completely debilitating Langley.

Sinek says that when we communicate from the ‘what’, we are not appealing to the feelings of the audience or listeners. However, if we communicate from the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the brain, we will most likely trigger feelings of passion and purpose, urging listeners to follow in our footsteps. This not only helps in building trust, but also helps to further strengthen the ‘what’ thus rationalizing behavior.

He concludes by saying that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

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