“Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we
have to, but because we want to.”
Inspirational leaders often share a common attribute. They know the seed of success can grow from one small but powerful word: Why?
People inspired by their leaders will follow not because they’re being told to by someone in authority—but because they want to out of sense of shared values and beliefs.
Before you can motivate others, you must know your own “why” behind your values, your beliefs. It’s not about “how” you do what you do – but “why.” More precisely, as long as we know our “why”, the “how” and the “what” will take care of themselves.
As you read through the following post, explore the “why” behind what really inspires you. As you do, you’ll find that you’re more easily able to inspire and empower those you lead to greater levels of success and fulfillment.
Understanding Your “Why” So Others Can, Too
In a well-known Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last,” brings home the value of knowing the why for your actions. He believes that people aren’t inspired by what you do as a leader as much as why you do it, and that what you do is proof of what you believe.
Sinek believes that the most inspiring leaders and organizations in the world share a powerful commonality that is in opposition to everyone else. He says they all think, act, and communicate in the same way.
Why Are Some Leaders Inspirational – and Others Aren’t?
If you’ve ever wondered why some leaders have the ability to inspire while others do not, Sinek says the explanation is quite simple: few people or organizations know the “why” behind what they do. Sounds surprising, right? But it’s very true.
Being driven by a cause, a purpose, or a belief will bring the right people to you who share those same values, who believe what you believe. And, says Sinek, those folks will work for you “with blood, sweat, and tears.”
Stop and let that soak in for a moment. By getting clear on your purpose, your why, people will follow you with their full selves.
So, How Clear Are You on the “Why” Behind What You Do?
Sinek masterfully deepens this concept: “But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”
Contrast this with the 70% or so of us humans running around on the earth operating from the outside-in. We can try (and “try” is the operative word here!) to get our needs of security, belonging and self-esteem met through others and, consequently, frequently feel disappointed and frustrated because we will never succeed getting from others what only lies within us. Living from the outside-in is therefore a set-up to a dissatisfying life and way of operating in the world. Living from the inside-out is another story.
To live – and lead – from the inside-out, start by finding your why – your cause – that drives you forward. Getting very clear on what your values are- and ensuring they are indeed your values and not someone else’s – s one sure-fire way to begin understanding your “why.” Another is to listen to that quiet, steady voice inside you, the one that has never steered you wrong.
4 Easy Questions to Help You Discover Your Why
This Forbes article has four simple questions you can ask yourself to better understand your “why.” Here they are:
1) What inspires you – what makes you come alive?
2) What would you say are your natural talents and strengths?
3) In what areas do you add the most value?
4) What matters most to you? How will you measure your life?
As you get clearer on what you stand for, watch as your team begins filling up with people who believe in the similar things you do. Watch as, together with you, these people put their all into manifesting the same, expanded results your vision had in mind.
Transformational Leaders Inspire Top-Notch Performance
Knowing that all-important “why” can guide you as a leader to use your own special combination of skills and strengths to excite and inspire both individuals and teams toward success.
Transformational leaders create the space for their teams to think bigger, to come up with creative ways to navigate challenges and to take on bold new projects. Transformational leaders inspire excellence from people through empowerment – rather than from “command and control” tactics.
Think about it – which of these motivates you more: Being “told” what to do – or feeling empowered…inspired…to move to greater levels of success? I’m willing to bet you’d rather listen – maybe even relate to – someone’s “why” than listen to a leader drone on about mission statements and goals that have little meaning for you.
Understanding Your “Why” Isn’t Just About You…
Having a clear understanding of your “why” has an important trickle-down effect. As others relate to and are inspired by you, others in your organization will also be motivated to reach their full potential as well. A win-win!
Honestly contemplating your “why” might open up new pathways you weren’t even aware of previously. Consider journaling for a week or two and scribbling down “why” you do what you do every day. I’d love to hear your results!
Looking for strategies on how to become a more inspirational—and effective—leader? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.
Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.