In his book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek presents the idea that great leaders inspire others by starting everything with the question why. He uses dozens of examples of great leaders who have a clear sense of why. Sinek points out how these leaders have rallied followers by clearly defining their why to everyone around them.
Sinek first outlines the process that leaders should follow. He says great leaders should put the Why (the purpose) before the How (the process), or the What (the product). He offers examples of leaders who have started with why. The Wright brothers, Apple, Disney, Southwest Airlines, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are a few of the individuals and organizations who Sinek says have started with why. Each of these people and organizations have clearly demonstrated their values and reasons for existence. Sinek says that the general public knows what these people and organizations stand for and why they offer the products or services that are or have been available.
Sinek also provides valuable insight into the various leadership styles. He prefers the transformational leadership style in most instances. In chapter 2 titled, “Carrots and Sticks” he points out the two ways to influence human behavior. Sinek says people can be manipulated or inspired. When he uses the term manipulation, it is not necessarily derogatory. He posits that manipulation is a common tactic to sell or market products. Dropping the price, using fear, or peer pressure are all forms of manipulation. Sinek points out that these manipulations often work; however, they lead to transactions, not loyalty.
As leaders, it should always be our goal to seek loyalty through inspiration, not manipulation. Sinek has another phrase in his book that I really enjoyed. He said, “Just because it works doesn’t make it right.” He further describes how manipulations can work effectively for the short-term, but the long-term benefits rarely exist. Sinek repeatedly proclaims that if we start with why, we will inspire those around us to join us in our journey.
I want to be this type of leader. I hope to inspire people to follow me not because I am technically their boss, but because they feel inspired to do so. I want to be the leader who starts with a clear sense of why. May we all strive for our personal and professional goals to always be clear and purposeful.