Looking through modern American history, some of the most inspiring and consequential leaders are the Wright Brothers. Both Orville and Wilbur Wright are terrific examples of risk-takers. They were willing to risk their lives and careers on their dreams of flight.
Yes, the Wright Brothers were visionaries. It is safe to say that they changed the course of human history. That said, the Wright Brothers were also outstanding leaders. Orville and Wilbur showed many of the key characteristics of great leadership. They were optimistic and leveraged determination, creativity, and hard work to accomplish their goals.
Above all else, however, the Wright Brothers were able to identify and work toward their Why. As explained by NPR, the Wright Brothers’ “genius and vision to see that humans would have to fly their machines, that the problems of flight could not be solved from the ground”. Their Why was hypothesizing that their flying contraption would change the world—so long as it worked.
It is safe to say that their vision became a reality.
Leadership is a topic that takes up countless books, magazine articles, and TED Talks. I constantly think about it as the manager of a global company with 500 employees. But that being said, I think that this concept of Why is what makes great leaders so effective. Better yet? Anyone can adopt a Why first leadership style and incorporate it into any type of business.
In this post, I want to further delve into the power of Why and how it can motivate any group of people toward a certain goal. With a full understanding of Why first leadership, you can go forth and inspire your team to do great things in the world.
Why Great Leadership is Still Important
We all know that leadership is important for the success of any organization. It is axiomatic at this point. Yet most of us simply stop there. There is far less exploration and discussion of leadership in practice and why it can be so effective in moving large groups of people toward one goal.
Ultimately, every company has leaders. Often, they are seen as those with the fancy titles or those who occupy the C-Suite. That being said, there are leaders and those who lead. Put another way, there are those who hold positions of power or authority. But the more effective group consists of those who lead. While these leaders may gain some authority from their title or position, their authority comes from their words and actions. They have a clear vision on where their organization should go and inspire their colleagues to join them on the journey.
This type of leadership can move mountains. It can inspire everything from introducing a product or service to a new sector to launching a risky new marketing campaign. But the truly great leaders? They focus on the power of Why and incorporate it into everything that they do.
Why is “Why First” Leadership So Effective?
This idea of Why First leadership is powerful for so many reasons. Yet some of the most prominent were highlighted by Simon Sinek. In his groundbreaking book Start With Why, Sinek laid out several reasons why customers select certain companies. That said, his insights are definitely applicable to managers or CEOs who want to become better leaders.
After all, even though managers and CEOs sell to customers, their employees are another set of “customers.” While we spend much of our time focusing on how to best serve our paying customers, this separate set of “customers” is just as important. Without them, our businesses would collapse.
Why first leadership is so effective because it forces leaders to think long and hard about their work. They need to wrestle with the underlying meaning behind their company and the value that they provide to the world. The good news is that your Why doesn’t need to be saving the world or foregoing all profits. It can essentially be anything.
The freedom of your Why, however, doesn’t mean that it is easy to find. Managers and CEOs must dig deep and think about why their companies exist. From there, leaders must take the time to concisely state their Why and ingratiate it into their organization. It’s more challenging than it sounds, yet those leaders who can do so will find it immensely useful.
Ultimately, this idea of starting with Why touches on many different concepts, but one of the most important is that emotions always trump reason. Even though we think that we are rational creatures, our emotions have a powerful influence when we make decisions. These decisions can be everything from creating a new product to deciding whether to hire or fire an employee. Sometimes, these emotional decisions can be dangerous, as we aren’t considering all aspects of the situation before making our choice.
That being said, leading with your Why is a great way to leverage the power of emotions in your company’s favor. You are able to capitalize on humans’ bias toward emotions and direct them toward a positive direction.
A compelling Why —whether that is making the world a better place with your product or even offering best-in-class customer service—galvanizes your colleagues. They own the work that they do and put their best foot forward when chipping away at their goals. Even when the work gets difficult, their emotional connection with the Why provides them with some sturdy mental armor to overcome those challenges.
So Why first leadership is something that can improve morale, help you generate more sales, and accelerate your company toward its goals. But you may be wondering how you can implement Why first leadership in your organization. Check out part two for some actionable tips on how to do so.