Saturday, June 23, 2012


I have been reading this book "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek.  It is an interesting book for a number of reasons. 

The book is about a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives leaders the ability to inspire those around them.  The author provides a number of stories to illustrate the themes in this book about the way people advanced their ideas and their vision.  They inspire their industry, consumers, the nation.  Examples used include the Wright brothers (the first flying machine), Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Dr. Martin Luther King, Harley Davidson, Disney, Southwest Airlines, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Neil Armstrong and Sam Walton.

I have paraphrased a number of paragraphs and material from the book to illustrate some key points on leadership and vision.

Apple succeeded for a number of reasons.  Apple has been able to challenge conventional thinking within a number of industries, they started with 'why'.  Apple communicates the 'why' by stating "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.  We believe in thinking differently.  The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.  And we happen to make great computers.  Wanna buy one".   Apple defines itself by why it does things, not what it does. 

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do. Why does your company exist, what is your purpose, cause or belief.  Why do you get out of the bed each morning.  Most organizations describe themselves as what they are or how they do it  
When you know the 'why' you do what you do, the next question is how will you do it. The hows are the values or principles that guide the 'how' to do things.  Finally the 'what' are the results of these actions.  The 'what' are the products, services, marketing, culture, etc.  The same person usually doesn't carry through the dream to a plan and implementation.  The leader will provide the 'why' and others in the organization will provide the structure to take the vision and make it a reality. One good example provided in the book was about Dr. Martin Luther King and his dream and his longtime friend and colleague Ralph Abernathy who provided the 'how' to realize the dream.  Two hundred and fifty thousand people showed up in the summer of 1963 to hear Dr. King deliver his speech "I have a dream".   Dr. King inspired people to change America.

You meet leaders and sometimes you say that the person has charisma or lots of energy.  They are different attributes. Energy motivates people but charisma inspires people.  Charisma commands loyalty.  Bill Gates is not an energetic public speaker but he inspires people.  Bill Gates had a vision for the way technology could make people more productive, make their life better.  He is actually using this same vision with the foundation he co-founded with his wife and is looking for ways to solve problems.  

How does change happen or ideas take hold?  Our population can be broken down into the following: the innovators - 2.5%; the early adopters - 13.5%; the early majority - 34%; the late majority - 34%: the laggards - 16%.  We can all sit at different spots on this spectrum depending on the product or idea.  

All leaders have to have two things - a vision of the world that does not exist and the ability to communicate it.  Our visions are the world we imagine, the tangible results of what the world would look like if we spent every day in the pursuit of our 'why'.  Leaders start with 'why' we need to do things.  Leaders inspire action. 

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