Leaders know that there’s always room for improvement, and Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why provides some excellent leadership lessons from a true expert.
What separates good leaders from ineffective ones? What does it take to go from merely good to exceptional?
What are the traits and skills you need to lead your business to greatness?
Simon Sinek has devoted his life to tackling questions like these. After working with some of the world’s best-known leaders, Sinek has identified the patterns that lead to outstanding leadership.
His work explores the traits of the most productive organizations, and Sinek uses this knowledge to inspire leaders to attain greatness.
He’s written multiple bestselling books on this topic. Among the most popular is Start With Why. After selling millions of copies, Sinek shared the book’s lessons with the additional millions of people who’ve watched his TED talks.
If you haven’t read the book or watched any of Sinek’s talks yet, we highly recommend that you do so – until then, this article can serve as an introduction to his principles of great leadership.
Leadership Lesson #1 – Always Refer Back to Your “Why” When Making Decisions
Generally speaking, leaders make decisions based on what they want to achieve, then they focus on what they need to do to make that happen.
Now, we all know how important it is to take the right actions in a business, but should those actions be your focal point?
Simon Sinek says that first you need to know why you’re taking action in the first place.
There are many reasons this is important. First of all, it’s not always easy to set the right direction for your business. Knowing your “why” ensures alignment and helps you identify the right path forward.
Plus, your “why” can be an endless source of motivation. Wealth, status, and other motivators are fleeting. You can’t rely on them in the long run… But if you remind yourself of your vision and your real reasons for doing what you do, you’ll be unstoppable.
Leadership Lesson #2 – Understand the Golden Circle
Your “why” is at the center of what Simon Sinek calls the Golden Circle. The second outward circle contains the “how,” and the final circle contains the “what.”
So, what does this look like in practice?
Take, for example, a successful company like Apple. Its mission perfectly encompasses the three aspects of the Golden Circle.
People know that Apple stands for thinking differently. The company shoots for innovation at every opportunity. This is the “why.” Apple wants to inspire innovation in its people, consumers, and the whole world.
The “how” comes in the form of pushing the limits of what technology can do. Everything, from the design to the features of Apple products, has positioned the company at the forefront of new technology.
And finally, the “what” is the actual products and services that Apple offers. Whatever changes are made to the product, Apple honors the “how” and “why.”
It’s in a company’s best interests to approach growth from this perspective. Even as you evolve, you should stay true to your core. It’s your competitive edge and what separates you from the others in your niche.
Leadership Lesson #3 – Use Your “Why” to Get Early Adopters for New Products
Innovators and early adopters are incredibly important for your business. They’re usually the ones who are willing to take risks with new solutions, and their opinions matter to your customer base. More often than not, early adopters are influencers with loyal followings, too.
So, how can you win them over?
That’s where you can leverage your “why.” More specifically, you need to match your “why” to your early adopters’ values.
Once again, Apple is a great example of this. The company’s “why” is to break the norm and think differently. This message resonates with their audience, particularly the early adopters. Virtually all Apple products are well-received as a result. Apple’s message resonates with the early adopters, who then spread the positive word to the market.
By playing to your “why,” you can achieve the same results. Communicate your “why” clearly, and people will connect with your vision and your offer.
Leadership Lesson #4 – Communication Is All About Listening
Many companies look at communication as a one way street. They push out messages, then expect people to passively consume and react to those messages. Somewhere in there, the other key component of communication – listening – gets lost.
Take your logo as an example… What does it represent?
If the answers are innovation, quality, and so on, you’re likely making the same mistake.
Because these qualities relate to your business, not your audience and their beliefs.
For an example of a company that understands how communication works, consider Harley-Davidson. People have the logo tattooed on their bodies, including people who don’t even own a Harley!
Because Harley-Davidson is more than a brand. It’s a movement, a cause, and a community… And their logo embodies all that.
This is one of the most important leadership lessons you’ll ever learn. Simon Sinek explains that your communication must inspire people, and to do that, you must listen. In particular, listen to how your audience perceives your brand. Do this right, and you can connect with people on a profound level.
Honor Your Vision
You can see why Start With Why deserves the attention it’s been getting since it first came out. It’s full of leadership wisdom, so you’ll likely want to add it to your reading list…
But first, take a look at your business and see if you’re already applying some of Sinek’s advice. If not, get started the first chance you get. It can transform your leadership style and business for the better.
…And if you need any help along the way, we’re here for you.