Leading with your Why

Leading with your Why

It’s Christmas time and you find yourself in the mall when a booth salesman approaches you.

“Do I have a deal for you,” he says, then proceeds to deliver his spill. Let me know which of these two pitches would convince you to buy his product.

We sell the top of the market hair brushes. They can de-tangle and remove dead strands, and they work for wet and dry hair. Want to buy one?


You know that feeling you get when you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I look good”? This is the self-confidence that we strive to produce for our customers. We do so through our products that can de-tangle and remove dead strands, and they work for wet and dry hair. Our self-confidence boosting products are top of the market hair brushes. Want to buy one?

How Great Leaders Lead

In his TED Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Simon Sinek presents the key to sharing one’s ideas in such a way that others not only understand but can relate to and take on as their own.

What is this secret? The Golden circle.

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In the example above the first pitch is the process of working one’s way from the outside of the golden circle inward. This is how most companies and individuals market their products and themselves. They start with the What, then move to the How. Very few companies can tell you the Why behind what they do, which leaves their audience uninspired and unconnected.

The second example shows a pitch working from the inside outward. It starts with a mission allowing you as the customer to relate to and join their cause. They then explain how this goal can become a reality and finally deliver the product as the solution. The idea is not to sell the person on the product but instead to recruit them for your team. Because as Simon states in his speech:

“People don’t buy what you do, they but why you do it.”

People want to be identified with a cause or product that aligns with their beliefs. When you share your why, it allows others to take this mission and make it their own.

A perfect example of this was the Civil Rights movement. On August 28, 1963, two thousand five hundred people showed up to hear a single man. This man did not speak on the opposition between black and white. He did not present a plan as to how politics or force could bring power for change. He simply shared his personal beliefs and dreams. This dream is what brought such a large gathering together. No one came to see King; they came because they identified with his Why. This Why is what inspired a movement and united people from all racial backgrounds.

A more modern-day example of this would be the well-known and beloved company, Apple. This company has no secret advantage over their competitors. They have the same means of producing income, products, and advancements in technology. The only thing that sets them apart is that they have a mission. Apple is not simply a commuter company, they are an industry that defies the limits pushes the boundaries and dares to dream big. Talk to any loyal Apple owner and they will tell you that these are the exact things that they themselves strive to do through the products they buy. It’s not simply a commuter, it’s a mindset.

How about a smaller scale example. Chick-Fil-A makes outstanding chicken sandwiches but their mission is to provide the highest level of customer service in the fast-food industry. If you hear someone say “my pleasure” the first question that pops into your mind is whether they work at Chick-Fil-A. Search the web for memes, videos, and reviews on this company and you will see that their customer service is their mission. Having this Why behind their product attracts customers who appreciate this service and workers who wish to be identified with this reputation. Even when the beliefs of this company are tested and challenged by opposing ideas and opinions (Chick-Fil-A gives protestors free chicken sandwiches and drinks), the mission that they hold stands firm. This is what separates Chick-Fil-A from its competitors.

Personal Application

Martin Luther King’s Why was a dream of his children growing up in a world where the color of their skin mattered less then their character and the contents of their hearts. His How was a peaceful Civil Rights movement, and his What was freedom and equality for all.

Apple’s Why is the challenging of modern day technology that turns ideas into reality. Their How is the creation of cutting edge products that are easy to use, and their What are computers.

Chick-Fil-A’s Why is a welcoming atmosphere that values their customers and inspires their employees to serve. Their How is outstanding customer service, and their What are chicken sandwiches.

If Martin Luther King, Apple, and Chick-Fil-A can use this technique then so can you. This is not simply a tool for big shots. It’s a way of looking at all of life.

Why do you have the job you do? Why do you go to the school you do? Why do you believe as you do? Why do you think that the dreams you have are worth anyone’s time?

If you can answer these questions then you can convince others to take on your cause.

So next time you are explaining an idea to a coworker, telling a stranger what you do for a living, or sharing your beliefs with a friend, try explaining why you hold to these ideas. Before you know it, you might just be leading a movement of people who share the same mission, simply because you showed it to them.

Want to see some personal examples of this concept? Check out these three blogs on why I do what I do.

The Reason I Chose To Work With Children Every Day

The Reason I Am Passionate About Nuts, Bolts, And Hay

The Reason I Chose Not To Go To College

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