By Simon Sinek, American author on leadership and motivational speaker.
COMMENT BY WENDY LAMBOURNE, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, ON THIS VIDEO: Legitimate Leadership believes that organizations succeed to the degree to which its members are prepared to go above and beyond in pursuit of its objectives. The leadership challenge therefore is to solicit peoples’ willingness to give unconditionally to the goals and objectives of the organization. What solicits peoples’ willingness, we believe, is three things: PURPOSE, PERSON, PASSION. Of the three, Purpose relates to what Simon Sinek calls Just Cause. Simon Sinek, and Legitimate Leadership. believe that people will only go the extra mile for something worth suspending their self-interest for. Simon Sinek calls this a Just Cause; Legitimate Leadership calls it the Benevolent Intent of the enterprise, or its Noble Purpose. Giving people a ‘why’ which is about increasing the ROI for shareholders is not only not motivating, it tends to engender hostility. This is because this ‘why‘ turns employees into people who are being ‘taken from’ to enrich the owners of the business. What solicits in people a willingness to go above and beyond, to sacrifice their own interests, is a ‘why ‘which is bigger than themselves and is about making a contribution to others and making the world a better place. It is a ‘why‘ which is about adding value to a customer. This ‘why‘ has nothing to do with the company’s products and services – it is all about what the company makes or does FOR its customers. Articulating and communicating the organization’s Benevolent Intent is the job of the leaders of the company. Ensuring that everyone in the company then lives up to its Noble Purpose is also a leadership issue. Leaders need to believe in the Just Cause and dedicate themselves to it. They need to make sacrifices in the interests of furthering that cause. Then, and only then, will their people do likewise.
OUR SUMMARY OF THIS VIDEO: Does your organization offer your people a cause so just that they would be willing to sacrifice themselves and their interests in order to advance that cause?
An example of a Just Cause was the United States’ Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers wrote down a reason why they wanted to go to war and create their own country. All men are created equal, they said – endowed with unalienable rights amongst which include life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words they presented an ideal vision of a future state that did not yet exist – an ideal so inspiring that they were willing to commit their honor, their fortunes and their lives in order to advance it.
They will never actually achieve that ideal but they will die trying – and that is the point.
Winning the Revolutionary War was simply a finite victory in this infinite game. Once they had won that finite victory (like winning a client for us), the heavy work begins (like founding a company for us).
We can see throughout the history of nations when these nations are trying to advance their ideal state – whether it’s the abolition of slavery or women’s suffrage or gay rights. We can see that there’s a striving towards that ideal state that they’ll never actually reach.
Organizations need to offer their people a cause so just that they would be willing to sacrifice – and it has nothing to do with the products you make or the services you sell. Nobody is inspired to sacrifice by going on frequent business trips and being away from their families so that the company can make the best products of the best possible value. Nobody cares about that.
Steve Jobs for example had an ideal vision of a future state. A Just Cause that he imagined was a world in which an individual could stand up to Big Brother; in which an individual could compete with a corporation. It so happened the personal computer was the perfect product to help Apple advance its just cause, and the people who signed up to be a part of their company were proud and loyal customers. It wasn’t just that the product was better (that was debatable); it was that they saw themselves as champions for this cause and that cause became their own.
It’s not an accident they attracted young and creative people to be such zealots for their products. It’s because these were the people who liked the idea of standing up to Big Brother. It was a just cause.
Sacrifice doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing your life. Going on frequent business trips, being away from your family, working late hours and knowing that you could probably make more money at another job but you choose to stay here and choose to do those things – not because you like those things but because you feel they are worth it.
Are you offering your people something to make them feel a part of something bigger than themselves – a vision that they feel is worth the sacrifice?
You must have a Just Cause to play in the infinite game.
NOTE: Sinek defines a finite game as having known players, fixed rules and agreed-upon objectives. By contrast, rules are changeable in the infinite game, with unknown players who are in it to keep playing. Problems arise when finite players are up against infinite players. Often the former end up mired in lost trust and declining innovation.