Good Leaders Unlock the Imagination by Starting with WHY

To help see others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination.

The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Start with Why, by Simon Sinek

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty?

In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why.

Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Walt Disney’s dream that we now know as Disneyland faced an immense problem: how do you get financial investors to back something that’s never been done before, and exists only in a few sketches?

Faced with this dilemma, Disney did what he was best at: he painted pictures with words:

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to spend pleasant times in one another’s company.

Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and hard facts that have created America. And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world. 

Disneyland will be filled with the accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in. And it will remind us and show us how to make those wonders part of our lives.

Walt Disney, An American Original, 246-247

Disney’s simple but evocative language convinced the investors of a future they could not see – and the rest is history.

Great leaders and great organizations are good at seeing what most of us can’t see. They are good at giving us things we would never think of asking for.

Great leaders are those who trust their gut. They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY.

Products and services with a clear sense of WHY give people a way to tell the outside world who they are and what they believe. Remember, people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. If an organization does not have a clear sense of WHY then it is impossible for the outside world to perceive anything more than WHAT the organization does. And when that happens, manipulations that rely on pushing price, features, service or quality become the primary currency of differentiation.

WHAT: Every single organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATS are easy to identify.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your organization exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

It all starts from the inside out. It all starts with WHY.

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

A NEXT STEP

There is a fine line between inspiration and manipulation. A leader can use powerful language, vivid images, and emotional pleas to his audience – and be a manipulative, power-hungry despot.

A leader can also use powerful language, vivid images, and emotional pleas to his audience – and be a visionary leader.

The difference is in the WHY. If people don’t believe in the WHY behind your vision, they won’t be motivated to help you deliver it.

To understand the WHY behind all sides of a situation, idea, or problem you are facing, take the WHY Train by answering the following questions:

  1. Who is the main actor in the situation or problem?
  2. What is the main concept, object, or action the main actor uses or performs?
  3. Where is the main actor located when performing or using the main concept, object, or action?
  4. When does the situation or problem occur?
  5. Describe each answer in more depth.
  6. Conclude by asking WHY to the answers you have given.

The result of this exercise will be a thorough and sequential description about a situation and the insightful reasoning behind each element.


As leaders, we communicate in all we say and do. We may be entertaining at times, we inform much of the time, and occasionally we must be directing in what we say. But in all situations, we can inspire and connect with our audience.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 29-1, published December 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

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