Start With Why by Simon SinekHere’s a great section from Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action by Simon Sinek.

Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people—supporters, voters, customers, workers—who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to. (Kindle location 163)

This raised some good questions for me:

  • Am I following leaders because I am swayed or inspired?
  • Do I lead by sway or inspiration?
  • How is the outcome different when I’m swayed versus inspired?

I see sway in this context as an external motivator, the most common being money or authority. You work extra hard because you want more money. You complete a project on time because you don’t want your boss to be mad. It’s an exchange–one thing to get or avoid another thing versus something you do simply because you want to.

I think Sinek’s observations have a profound impact on the workplace. You get a different type of employee and workplace when people are inspired and living from their own WHY, particularly when that WHY is shared throughout the organization.

I see this clearly where I work. Many people join because they are passionate about open source software, a particular programming language or technology they love. They are innately driven and inspire the people around them, including the people that work for them. It has a multiplier affect within the company.

I’ve seen the opposite too–people who come for other reasons. They have different passions and are inspired by other things. There is nothing wrong with these differences, however this misalignment often creates a less positive environment and results.