Leaders Who Inspire Start with “Why”

How does a leader become truly inspirational? I’m reading an inspirational book by Simon Sinek: Start with Why (Portfolio, 2010). According to Sinek, seen on TED tv:

If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY to come to work?

Certainly we are all motivated to come to work by pay and other incentives. But pay doesn’t motivate us to give our all, to become better than we were last month, to commit to goals or to engage our hearts and minds to our full potential.

Pay doesn’t buy enthusiasm. And that’s whats needed if you want people to act for the good of the business, for the good of all who work there, for the benefit to customers. Leaders who clearly communicate a higher purpose inspire others work with engagement and commitment. It unleashes people’s potential for doing good work.

The trouble is many leaders aren’t communicating clearly about why they come to work every day. I’m talking about a higher “why” than the obvious ones. I’m talking about expressing your true purpose, your passion, your real reasons for getting out of bed in the morning.

Often it’s a cause or purpose greater than oneself. What is that for you? What is that for your company? Not only are some leaders not clear about what that why is, they often put it into the background, where it gets fuzzy and loses energy.

Maybe it’s because values and purpose get expressed as nouns… as in:

But nouns don’t inspire action. You aren’t communicating clearly when you ask your people to be more innovative or to be creative, or to have integrity. These words may have lost their meaning and become fuzzy from overuse.

However, when a leader asks people to always do the right thing, or to look at problems from other angles, or to question their assumptions… now leadership communications become actionable. It takes transforming nouns into verbs, and connecting with why your work is important.

Some of the work I do with my clients involves clarifying the why of their careers and their organizations. The second part of that is in finding a way executives can express their why in a way that makes sense to others. Those who improve their communications by starting with why find greater results in terms of influencing others.

As Simon Sinek says, start with why: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

What do you think about this? Are you communicating to your people, using actionable verbs, what you truly believe in, why your company exists? What is your higher purpose for your business? Leave me a comment, I’m curious.

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