Day 75: How great leaders inspire us

Simon Sinek opens this talk with a series of questions beginning with one word; why. Why is Apple so innovative? Why did Martin Luther King lead the civil rights movement? Why did the Wright brothers beat all of the over-funded and better trained companies to make the first aeroplane?

‘Why’ is at the centre of Sinek’s powerful model for inspirational leadership. He calls this model, ‘The Golden Circle’. According to Sinek, this characterises how the Wright brothers, Luther-King and the Apple company think. It is also, he believes, completely opposite to how the rest of us think.

The circle basically consists of three words from inside to out; why, how and what? Great companies, such as Apple, always think about the ‘why.’ Why do their employees get out of bed in the morning, why do they want to make a product, why should we care? If Apple were to say, ‘we make great computers; they’re simply designed and easy to use’, their marketing campaign would sound similar to just about everyone else. Instead their message is, ‘Everything we do, we believe in changing the status quo.’

Sinek’s message is grounded in human biology. The human brain has three components that correspond with the golden circle. There’s the neo-cortex, which is responsible for answering, ‘what?’ The middle two sections make up the limbic system, which looks after our feelings. Gut decisions come from here. Interestingly, the part of the brain which controls decision making doesn’t control language.

Remembering this, how do we get people to buy products? The goal is to sell to those who believe what we believe. People buy why something is done, not how it’s done. Successful leaders should forget the twelve point plans and inspire us.

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