How Great Leaders Inspire Action: The Importance of “Why”

We can all agree that change has become the “new normal” in our business and professional lives. Businesses are in flux with mergers and acquisitions occurring routinely. There is downsizing and optimizing with people’s jobs changing and going away. Through the chaos of change, as a leader it is not only important to explain the “what” and the “how,” but the “why” of why something is being done.

Simon Sinek, in his first book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action is on many organizations’ must read lists. The premise of his book is a concept called the Golden Circle, which his speaker biography on the website says is “a naturally occurring pattern, grounded in the biology of human decision making, that explains why we are inspired by some people, leaders, messages and organizations over others.”

A brief 20-minute video on the TED Talks website explores why some leaders are exceptionally successful because they can articulate the “why” something is done that others follow willingly and with passion. Think Dr. Martin Luther King or even the Wright Brothers. Yes, the Wright Brothers. As Sinek notes, these brothers inspired others to help them which is why they succeeded with their first flight. Others like Samuel Pierpont Langley who was well-heeled and well-financed could not do the same. Here is the link for the video:

After watching the video, you might want to ask some questions that reflect on your leadership style – both in your personal and professional life as well as in your leadership role with IABC:

  1. How does explaining the “why” help people understand why they should engage in an effort or change?
  2. What leadership examples can you think of where this has been an effective technique?
  3. How is the “why” related to aspirations you may have?
  4. How does the “why” help motivate people to be enthusiastic about a cause or effort? What can you do to generate enthusiasm and action using this technique?
  5. How does being driven by “why” help you be rooted in a deeper purpose?

IABC Southern Region has developed a Leadership Toolkit based on 10 TED Talks that will help you refine your thinking about your own leadership style. Find out more at the IABC Leadership Institute in February, or contact Maire Simington at for more information.

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