• Published
  • By Maj. Joseph Barnum
  • 22nd Comptroller Squadron
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. — Simon Sinek offers the thought, “There are a few leaders who choose to inspire rather than manipulate in order to motivate people,” but choosing to inspire requires different skill sets than choosing where to eat for lunch.

Sinek goes on to explain that inspiration starts from the inside out. It all starts with “why.” Every employee can describe what a company produces, and most can describe how the company does it better than the competition, but Sinek points out that few can describe why the company even exists.

He developed a concise pictorial of three circles with “why” in the center, “how” surrounding “why,” and “what” surrounding “how.”

He started with why the organization has a unified purpose that guides every decision on what products to produce and how to differentiate their product from the competitor. His example of an innovative company that starts with why was Apple.

Apple said, “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently: making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers.”

The guiding principle, the “why,” is challenging the status quo, the “how” is user-friendly designs, and the “what” is computers. Competitors offer similar products and functionality to Apple, but Apple maintains a disproportionate market share. Sinek believes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

I agree with Sinek. Focusing on why the organization exists guides an organization toward mission accomplishment. Organizations that focus from the outside in tend to be trapped in the minutia of daily tasks and don’t possess an understanding of why that task is important to overall mission achievement. Such organizations tend to contain numerous cynics and lack pride in their work.

I believe I owe everyone in my organization the reason, the “why,” for any decision I make, that way there is a link from every task to mission accomplishment. If I cannot provide that link, then I question the validity of such tasks.