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Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action


“How do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative?”

Simon Sinek, a writer for major publications and graduate level professor at Columbia University, starts off his TED talk with several questions alluding into an interesting marketing strategy he’s found the most successful leaders have followed. He has become an expert of dissecting how impactful leaders (such as major corporations and politicians) think, act, and communicate to their audience or potential buyers. Detecting patterns from his study on corporate giants, Sinek introduces his idea of the Golden Circle.

Sinek explains that everyone knows what they do, some know how they do it, but very few organizations know why they do what they do—‘why’ meaning more than for the result of a profit. He means the purpose, cause, and belief of the organization.

Sinek’s Golden Circle is made up of three spheres; the ‘what’ located on the outer sphere, the ‘how’ in the middle sphere, and the ‘why’ located deep in the core. Most people think, act, and communicate from the outside to the inside of the golden circle—from the clearest thing to understand (what) to the fuzziest thing (why), respectively.

This is how most marketing is done—“Here’s our product (what), we make the best in our line (how), want to buy one (why)?” But it’s uninspiring. Sinek goes on saying that the great leaders think, act, and communicate from the inside-out—starting from explaining why they do what they do, to how they do it, to showing what it actually is. Sinek then showcases Apple’s inside-out approach in marketing, which merely reverses the order of the information—“Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently (why). The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly (how). We just happen to make great computers (what). Want to buy one?” This is how Apple more effectively markets their products and creates greater customer loyalty than their competitors.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

From inspiring workers and users of a corporation, done by leading with a reason rather than a product, leaders develop a strong following of workers and users that are willing to work blood, sweat, and tears for them. A story about the Wright brothers is used to highlight this concept.

Bay Area business leaders, or owners of a business in San Francisco Bay Area, could benefit from these concepts as well.

Through a biological perspective, Sinek reiterates that though people are able to understand complex information by thinking from the outside-in of the Golden Circle it does not drive behavior the way working from the inside-out of does—which allows people to rationalize what they do afterwards.

When applying this tactic to a business, especially for businesses within competitive markets, such as San Francisco, Berkeley, or Oakland, it’s important to remember that favorable market behavior is driven by earning the trust of audiences, users, and potential buyers.

Sinek concludes his talk with famous failure and success stories that exemplifies the law of diffusion of innovation—which “tells us that if you want mass market success, or mass market acceptance of an idea, you cannot have it until you achieve this tipping point between 15-18% market penetration.” This is achieved by swaying the early majority to try and trust a product or idea. However, the early majority will not try something until someone else has tried it first, and innovators are the only ones comfortable enough to make those gut decisions—which are “driven by what they believe about the world, and not just what product is available.”

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Summary of Piedmont Avenue Services

  • Business Development Consulting
  • Customer Experience; Loyalty Marketing Programs
  • Brand Awareness and Positioning
  • Business & Sales Strategy
  • Internet Social Media Marketing
  • Website and Internet Marketing Optimization
  • Managed Marketing and Email Services
  • Creative Front of Mind Customer Interactions
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