There are only 2 things that a leader must do…

When Martin Luther King gave that famous speech, he didn’t start with “I have a plan” but “I have a dream”. Leaders’ undeniable dual-foci must be VISION and the ability to COMMUNICATE it. That’s it. This was one of my key take-homes from the opening keynote by Simon Sinek who is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them…start with the WHY.

This resonates deeply with me as I love to see and also help people to be engaged and passionate about what they do. I have this idealistic belief that there is a place for everyone in this jigsaw of life and if people can find their unique place in greater numbers it will make a difference in their life, their family, our community and beyond.

This weekend I have the privilege to attend the Apple Leadership Summit in Singapore. I am very grateful to Apple and our school for allowing me to attend. The conference in being held in Singapore’s School of the Arts (SOTA). For networking junkies I am in one of my optimum environments. Every time I turn around there is another person with a shared passion of reshaping learning and schools to engage passionate and lifelong learners.

As his bio in the conference blurb states, Simon Sinek writes, consults and speaks about the power of Why – the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us. Sinek frames his premise around that simple idea that to be a leader, we must have followers and followers, in most cases, choose to follow out of either manipulation or inspiration.

Manipulation can be seen in appealing to the ‘whats in it for me’ desires of the followers, their aspiration, or fear. There is often novelty disguised ad innovation.

Inspiration on the other hand is when a leader thinks, acts and communicates – they start with the WHY, the key aspect that distinguishes those with the capacity to inspire. Sinek drew a simple target diagram ( which I am unable to do in this WordPress app, so I will describe it for you).

WHAT is the outside circle of the target, HOW is the middle circle and WHY, the bullseye on the target diagram. Everyone knows WHAT you do, some know HOW you do it, but the most effective leaders can articulate the WHY. That’s why Martin Luther King said “I have a dream”, not “I have a plan”. He started with the WHY.

Those with the capacity to inspire thinks, acts and communicates from the inside out. Start with the WHY, to the HOW, then the WHAT. Not focusing on WHAT we do, but WHY we do it. If leaders can get this in the right order, then they can inspire inspire vision and effectively communicate it.

The clarity of WHY – what you know and believe.
The action of HOW – discipline
The consistency of WHAT – results.

Starting with the WHY shows authenticity and enables the follower to trust, risk and experiment – key elements of innovation.

According to Sinek the law of diffusion of innovation categorizes responses to innovative environments on a bell curve. On the left is the very small percentage of innovators in the world, followed by another small percentage of early adopters. This is followed by the early majority, late majority and laggers. Sinek described his parents as laggers – they only don’t have a rotation dialing phone, because you can’t buy them anymore.

‘Innovators’ and ‘Early Adopters’ and comfortable trusting their guts and will jump inboard ideas quickly. It is the two majority groups – both early and late that must be engaged to embrace innovation and this can only be achieved if they can feel it emotionally. Plans, steps, ideas are the WHATs and HOWs. These people must have the WHY inspirationally communicated.

From the conference bio about Simon Sinek: [His] unconventional and innovative views on business and leadership have attracted the attention of various high-profile international leaders and organizations and he recently became an adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation, one of the most highly regarded think tanks in the world. He has written or commented for local and national press, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR and BusinessWeek. Simon will relate the WHY to education: when students are inspired to do the things that inspire them, they optimize their learning

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