Mr Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, wrote a fascinating open letter to leaders in the electronics industry a week after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died. The subject line said it all: “Will we cry when you die”.
In the letter, Mr Sinek wondered if the public would cry if chief excutive officers such as Michael Dell and Larry Ellison (Oracle) were to pass on. He suggested that the public would not.
People were moved by Mr Jobs’ demise because he inspires, and people knew what he stood for. And, most importantly, he never wavered. He never sought consensus.
He stood up for what he knew was required; he concentrated on the little things. He knew that it was always the little things — details that others might miss — that made the real difference.
That focus and passion — standing for something — allowed people constantly to “connect” with him and therefore, to be impacted, even cry, when he died. Mr Jobs serves as a great model for inspiring leadership.
Having clarity on what you stand for (what Mr Sinek would call “knowing your why”) as a leader and never wavering from it is key to the kind of leadership that truly inspires.
Companies that inspire
In today’s environment, being an inspiring leader is crucial. It is the only way to build organisations that inspire. And that articulation is important— it’s not building companies that people admire, it’s building companies that inspire.
The clarity of purpose is central to it — for example, in Zappos (which sells millions of athletic shoes online), chief executive officer Tony Hsieh is very clear on what he and Zappos stand for. Every box of Zappos carries this simple message: “Zappos delivers happiness”.
Like Mr Jobs, Mr Hsieh is passionate and inspired himself.
An inspiring leader, first and foremost, inspires himself. He is anxious to fulfil his passion and his priority is to first create teams that are inspired so that they in turn create customers who love what they do and how they do it.
An inspiring leader understands that he is not measured by the number of followers he has, but by the number of leaders he creates. And to see why it’s easy to slip backwards, these words from Simon Sinek’s open letter express it beautifully:
“If you have any fantasies of spontaneous public love when your time comes, then you need to go back to your own roots. You need to rediscover your own cause — the thing that inspired you when you had nothing but a dream and a bunch of friends willing to help you build it.
“You used to be able to inspire a room with your words, now you work hard to ensure the analysts like what you say.
“Go back to the time when you were the idealist…when your dreams were clearer than the reality that told you that you were crazy... Be that person again…the one we used to love.
“Jobs was not unique for what he built. He was not unique for the gift he had. It wasn’t even unique that he had a bold vision for how the world should operate. What made him remarkable was that he never lost it…not until the day he died. And for that, we miss him dearly.”
Stand for something passionately. Go inspire. Go impact the world.