In Simon Sinek’s best selling book, Start with why he shares the following story about Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the co-founders of Apple: “The personal computer revolution was beginning to brew when Wozniak built the Apple I. Just starting to gain attention, the technology was primarily seen as a tool for business. Computers were too complicated and out of the price range of the average individual. But Wozniak, a man not motivated by money, envisioned a nobler purpose for the technology. He saw the personal computer as a way for the little man to take on a corporation. If he could figure out a way to get it in the hands of the individual, he thought, the computer would give nearly anyone the ability to perform many of the same functions as a vastly better resourced company. The personal computer could level the playing field and change the way the world operated. Woz designed the Apple I, and improved the technology with the Apple II, to be affordable and simple to use. No matter how visionary or how brilliant, a great idea or a great product isn’t worth much if no one buys it. Wozniak’s best friend at the time, the twenty-one-year-old Steve Jobs, knew exactly what to do. Though he had experience selling surplus electronics parts, Jobs would prove to be much more than a good salesman. He wanted to do something significant in the world, and building a company was how he was going to do it. Apple was the tool he used to ignite his revolution.
In their first year of business, with only one product, Apple made a million dollars in revenues. By year two, they did $10 million in sales. In their fourth year, they sold $100 million worth of computers. And in just six years, Apple computer was a billion-dollar company with over 3,000 employees.
Jobs and Woz were not the only people taking part in the personal computer revolution. They weren’t the only smart guys in the business; in fact, they didn’t know much about business at all. What made Apple special was not their ability to build such a fast-growth company. It wasn’t their ability to think differently about personal computers. What has made Apple special is that they’ve been able to repeat the pattern over and over and over? Unlike any of their competitors, Apple has successfully challenged conventional thinking within the computer industry, the small electronics industry, the music industry and the broader entertainment industry. And the reason is simple. Apple inspires. Apple starts with Why.”
We all want to be that inspirational leader, whose team members will follow through the depths of hell no matter what. This is a worthy admonition to have, but not so easily executed. Most of the leaders I work with when I ask what is their team’s vision or purpose, they battle to answer me or try to give me a fabricated answer that I can tell is not sincere or perhaps even true. How can we expect to inspire our team members when we have nothing to inspire ourselves?
As Simon Sinek goes on to say, “Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.”
If we want to inspire others to act, if we want others to follow us through the depths of hell…we need to START WITH WHY.