In this great TEDx talk, Simon Sinek explains exactly why some businesses – like Apple – inspire fans rather than “have” customers. It’s partly a function of biology.

Sinek explains that the biological functioning of our brains is comprised of the limbic system – the evolutionary, older area that is responsible for emotions, behaviour and decision making; and the neocortex – the newer, homosapien brain responsible for rationalizing and language. Interestingly, the limbic system – what is also called “the emotional brain” – has no capacity for language.

This explains why we make decisions with our “gut instinct”. It’s not our “gut” at all – it is not instinct – it’s our limbic brain making the decision that has not yet been processed through the neocortex.

What this means for leaders, is that if we want to achieve our goals, we need to engage our teams, our colleagues and our entire ecosystem in ways that appeal to, and activate, the core of the brain – the limbic system. It’s an inside-out approach. We have to “speak” to the non-linguistic brain. We need to enter a conversation with that part of the brain that controls behavior, trust and loyalty. We need to reach the decision maker directly (as any good sales person will tell you).

How can we do this? Sinek has a short, snappy line that we all should remember:

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

Say it with me (and say it out loud) – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

If you want to become a better leader, then take the 20 minutes or so to watch this video (see what I did there?). Then apply what you learn to your own leadership practices. Riffing off Simon Sinek – start with your own why.

Nina Nets it Out: Too often leaders talk to the facts and figures to motivate their teams. And too often those teams fail to deliver. But leaders who speak to the vision – who understand WHY and can articulate that – will allow their teams to make that cause their own. In this way, projects won’t simply be a chore for your teams – it will become their calling. Your challenge is to start by articulating your own “why”.

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