Great Leaders Communicate Why

How come some leaders inspire us to give our best, even when it involves our own hard work and sacrifice?

There are as many different formulas for leading a company well as there are brands of cereals at your local supermarket. I think it has more to do with communicating true purpose and vision, the “why” of your business.

If you don’t know and cannot communicate why you take specific actions, how can you expect employees to become loyal followers who support your mission? Great leaders inspire us when they connect with our hearts and emotions, and what truly matters to us.

I think that was key with Steve Jobs – he sparked something inside his customers on a deeply personal level. He was a master at product launches, and he selected ad campaigns that will be remembered for a long time (1984 Big Brother). He hooked anyone who ever wanted to challenge the status quo, and who wanted the coolest gadgets.

When Martin Luther King,  Jr. assembled 250,000 people in Washington D.C. (pre-internet and social media) in 1963 to give a speech, he engaged the world’s hearts and minds when he started with those four famous words: “I have a dream.” He stressed that people of all races needed to bond for a better future. He didn’t say, “I have a plan,” or explain how he intended to change laws and practices.

Those who start with why engage our minds long before explaining how they intend to get things done and addressing what they need to accomplish. This is the key to Simon Sinek’s Ted TV video and his book Start with Why. It’s also embedded in Roy Spence’s book, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For.

If you aren’t communicating why you care, why this is important, you aren’t really reaching into people’s hearts and inspiring them.

True leaders create followers who are inspired — not simply swayed by marketing or hype. Their willingness to act is rooted in a deeply personal cause that is greater than themselves — even if it means making a personal sacrifice. They’re willing to pay a premium, put up with inconvenience, and even ignore their own pain and suffering. They will do whatever it takes to follow your ideas because they believe in you or your company.

He who has a why can endure any how”. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

What do you think about how you’re communicating your “why?”

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