Leaders should focus on the why
His theory is one that resonated with us at SunLife: the reason some leaders and organisations are able to inspire better than others is greatly affected by the way in which they approach the circle. Outside in? Or inside out? Most businesses, he says, start from the outside and work in, concentrating on ‘what’ we do and ‘how’ we do it, before we consider (if ever) ‘why’.
Sinek uses Apple as example of a company that has enjoyed huge commercial success partly because, he postulates, everyone – staff and customers – know their ‘why’. Why does Apple exist: to challenge the status quo by making beautifully designed, simple to use, user-friendly products. And if they start with that first, the ‘what’ they do can be more flexible – they can successfully market computers, phones, music, watches, software, TV – and maybe in the future, cars. Compare Apple to a computer company where you only really understand ‘what’ they do – make computers – and see how such a company will struggle to find credibility in new markets.
At SunLife, ‘starting with why’ has been integral to the relaunch of our business – to clearly define why we exist for our customers, what we are going to do to deliver our ‘why’ and most importantly, how as people we are going to deliver it. The ‘why’ is as much about customers identifying what we stand for as it is for our people to believe in our purpose.