How great leaders inspire a loyal following

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How great leaders inspire a loyal following

In the summer of 1963, 250,000 loyal people showed up to watch Martin Luther King give a speech in Washington. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. Dr King certainly wasn’t the only great civil rights orator of the day. Why did all these people show to see him?

In 2015, Apple posted the highest grossing quarter in world history. Apple are just like any other computer company right? Wrong. For example, Apple and Dell started selling roughly the same products, but Apple manages to have customers queuing outside of its branches, for hours, before the release of a new product. How does Apple inspire such a loyal following?

All the great inspiring leaders and organisations in the world, whether it’s Apple or Martin Luther King, they all think, act and communicate the exact same way. And its the exact opposite to everybody else. Its probably the worlds simplest idea but yet the best kept secret in the businesses world, until now. Simon Sinek author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action  has codified this communication secret. He calls this secret formula “The Golden Circle”.

Black and white photo of a lion

The Golden Circle

Sinek uses the “Golden Circle” to explain his concept. The “Golden Circle” consists of three layers;

  • Why: this is the communication of a core belief and why they believe their idea or business will make a difference. Importantly this core belief is not motivated by profit.
  • How: this is how the business fulfils the core belief.
  • What: this is what the company produces that, in turn, fulfils their core belief.

Remember Martin Luther king’s speech? He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He instead told people what he believed. He started with why “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and were inspired to follow him.

Non-leading businesses or politicians, do the exact opposite of “The Golden Circle” they start with;

  • what and they communicate their plan or product.
  • Some may know, how, they produce this product or service.
  • Crucially, non-leaders will rarely know, why, they do, what they do. i.e why they are putting their idea to their audience for reasons not motivated by money.

It is the, why, when communicated properly that creates the loyalty. Back to the example of “Apple” and “Dell”, the key difference is that Apple, started with why.

Apple, before making its products, identified its audience as people with similar core beliefs. Apple asked;

“Do you, like us, believe in pursuing innovation? We will do this by making technology simple to use and reliable. We will produce this in the form of laptops/phones.”

By explaining why first, Apple, communicated to their audience a set of values. People, identified with these values and, in turn, purchased Apple products. Dell, in comparison, told their audience what they had;

“A new innovative product, that is perfectly designed”.

However, without the why, Dell’s communication was uninspiring to its audience.

So, why is starting with the ‘why’ so powerful?

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” explains Sinek.

It’s that simple. If you share a mutual core belief with your audience, they will want to buy from you, not your competitors. People are loyal to their own beliefs.

This principle, according to Sinek, is not a psychological truth, it is a biological truth. The Limbic system, is the part of the human brain that controls behaviour such as motivation, decision-making and loyalty. The Limbic system, does not have the capacity for language and has been conceptualised as, the ‘feeling and reacting brain’ that is interposed with the ‘thinking brain’. During a decision-making process, humans will have a ‘feeling’ (sometimes known as a gut-feeling), which will then be rationalised using language they can understand, such as product description or cost – by another part of the brain. Sinek argues that, generally, even if the product or price description is pleasing, people won’t go for it if they don’t have the right, ‘feeling’. This principle is even more prominent in service industries, such as law or coaching where trusted relationships are critical.

By starting with ‘why’ businesses can communicate their core beliefs to their target audience. When people resonate with these beliefs and follow their ‘good feelings’ in their Limbic brain, their behaviour is motivated emotionally, by feelings of loyalty and trust – which for businesses produces a client, for life.

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