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People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.

Why are some leaders able to inspire others to action and outperform the competition?  Why do some organizations that have more resources and talent underperform?  Most companies have the same access to the same sources of resources, information, and talent, so why are some companies able to excel while others fall behind?  Mr. Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why” and the TED talk “How great leaders inspire action”, has described a theory that aims to teach us how to become effective leaders and inspire change.

His theory is that “people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”  Every company or person knows “what” they do and most know “how” to do it.  However, there are only a few that really understand “why” they do what they do and leverage it to inspire others.  Understanding “what” and “how” is relatively easy.  Understanding “why” requires more effort.

While understanding “why” requires more effort, the benefits are much greater.  For instance, it is easier to sell to people who believe what you believe.  They understand “why” you are doing it and are more receptive.  The same is true for hiring people.  If you communicate “why” you are motivated to do something, then you will be more likely to connect with people who share your same belief.  For example, Mr. Sinek describes the story of the Wright Brothers pursuing powered, manned flight.  While they did not have the right people or adequate financial resources, they were still able to become the first to achieve the dream of powered, manned flight.  So how did the Wright Brothers outperform their better funded and resourced competition?  They were driven by a cause, a purpose, and they surrounded themselves with people who also believed in that cause.

When one talks about “why” they believe in something, they will attract people who believe what they believe.  There are “leaders” and then there are “those who lead”.  In most cases, we must follow a “leader” such as a boss or CEO; however, we don’t follow “those who lead” because we have to, we follow “those who lead” because we want to.  People want to do things that they believe in.  A leader who starts with “why”, will have the ability to connect and inspire others to their vision.

What about myself?  What am I doing?  Writing a blog about business topics.  How am I doing it?  Through the magic of the Internet.  Neither are compelling reasons to have people read my blog.  What if I shared “why” I started this blog?  I am writing this blog because I want to connect with other students and share ideas that can make us all better students and leaders.  I believe that we are all filled with great ideas and we need a place to share them.  This is our place.  I felt inspired by Mr. Sinek’s TED talk about “How great leaders inspire action” and I knew that I had to take this opportunity to share ideas that can make us all better people.  So I encourage you to view the TED talk, post your comments below, and maybe we’ll start something amazing with this little blog.


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