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  • Writer's pictureSarah Carter

But WHY????

Yesterday afternoon was rainy here in Chatan, Okinawa Japan but that did not stop the neighborhood children from playing, in fact I think it may have only fueled their excitement to be outdoors. Shielded in our water resistant rain coats, a friend of mine and I sat under a wide-leafed tree sipping on gifted wine while her children gleefully hopped around on their trampoline-turned-slip-n-slide (fear not, it had a net around it so no child went careening head first while giggly sliding around). Her always curious two year old daughter came over to us at one point and asked if she could pick up a snail she saw over on the uncovered (sigh) patio. When her mom told her no, she proceeded to ask why...about 12 times. Never once did my friend give in to the potentially annoying situation and offer up "because I said so" as an answer. She charged ahead at every repetitive inquiry with heart felt answers to her daughter that gave her a bigger since of her seemingly small question. "Because the snail is a wild creature who needs you to respect his space," "Because he's very tiny and you are so much bigger it would be very scary for him if you picked him up," "Because you are tiny and cute and we don't want people thinking that it's okay for them to pick you up because of it," and so on. All of her answers conveyed a bigger WHY then just "Because I said so." Respect of nature, respect for others, safety, and love.

I have heard her go through this process many times with her children, no not always about snails, and her tactic rarely changes. I had not taken much notice of it beyond to think "that's sweet" before I read Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. The focus of the book is on leaders of big companies such as Apple, South West, Toyota, and Disney but his message is one for leaders of all aspects of life including my friend who leads her children every day. "There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it" pg. 17. Moms inspire. Happy Mother's Day weekend to all the moms in the audience!

"Leadership is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years" pg. 28. Think about the best leader you have encountered in your life journey. It could be someone you have worked for/with, a teacher, a coach, a relative, anyone. Do you consider them the best because they were there for you for a moment in time where you were laser focused on getting you over a particular hurdle? Or do you consider them the best because their message and methods transcended the moment? Are they the best because they inspired you? You must have felt a sense of loyalty to them because you consider them the best you have encountered and stuck with them for years. Loyalty and trust come when the leader's WHY has been clearly communicated to their followers who believe the same that they believe but what is this mysterious WHY that Sinek is so passionate about.

"A WHY is just a belief. That's all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions - everything you say and do" pg. 67. Sinek uses an illustration of a tri-circle bullseye he calls the Golden Circle to demonstrate how WHY, HOW, and WHAT are interconnected with WHY being the inner most circle. It's the leader's core; where everything they say or do starts from. WHY is your values. Great leaders radiate their WHY out from their core through their HOW and WHAT. "The WHY provides the context for everything else...starting with WHY has a profound and long-lasting impact on the result. Starting with WHY is what inspires people to act" pg. 70. What did your best leader believe? What did your mom/dad believe? What is your WHY?

Sinek uses a person with an eternal, globally known WHY throughout the book to demonstrate his point about how important being clear on your WHY is: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King did not produce a tangible item that he held up to people and conveyed the benefits of owning it. He did not provide a service that he promised would revolutionize the way we function in our daily lives. He simply had a belief, a WHY, and he told the world. "It was what he believed and his ability to communicate it clearly that people followed...he, like all great leaders, became the symbol of the belief" pg. 129. Your WHY does not have to be as big and world changing as Dr. King's but having a clear sense of it will illuminate your HOWs and WHATs. Your WHY could be "I believe in modeling respectful, kind, mindful, safe behavior to everyone I encounter so that I can challenge the bit of the world that I encounter to be better than how I found it" or "I believe in the power of beauty, happiness, and relationship."

"A clear sense of WHY sets expectations. When we don't know an organization's WHY, we don't know what to expect, so we expect the minimum" pg. 147. Take out "an organization" from that last sentence and read it again. Whoa. When we do not know why, we expect the minimum. How many times have you witnessed this in varying arenas of your life? When someone at work does not feel they know why they are there so they do the bare minimum and just go through the motions? When you are not clear on why you are doing something so you do not give it your all? When your children do not understand why they were assigned a certain homework project so they turn it in with minimal effort? WHY sets expectations.

"WHY [also] provides the clear filter for decision-making. Any decisions" pg. 168. Professional occupation. Hobbies. Sports. Books you read. Places you shop. Who we choose as friends or partners. All of it! "Regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY - our driving purpose, cause or belief - never changes" pg. 136 so it is definitely something we should all reflect on and seek clarity. I know many leaders, in every arena of life, who are deeply familiar with their WHY. Their WHYs harmonize with mine and the relationships we have formed are strong because of the loyalty and trust the WHY inspires. What decisions have you made that reflect your WHY? What decisions have you made that have been inconsistent with your WHY? Did you change that decision later? HOW are you expressing your WHY?

Think on that last question for a while - two weeks to be exact. Come back on May 24th with your thoughts on HOW and join the HOW conversation here. I'd love to hear your WHY! Please leave a comment below, send me an email, or reach out on my social media to connect with me. Want more Simon Sinek? Check out the posts from July on Leaders Eat Last, head to his website (click here), or hop on over to Amazon to order a copy of Start With Why (click here).

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