Great leaders focus on the what and the why – not the how

Why is more important than ‘how’

According to American author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Sinek believes so much in this that he wrote a book about it, Start with Why. Sinek’s theory is that great leaders should focus on the ‘Why’ (a deep-rooted purpose) before defining the ‘What’ (product or service) or the ‘How’ (the process). Unfortunately, most leaders focus on the How and leave little thought to the Why, or even the What.

Reasons Why

Focusing on the How is nothing short of micromanaging. It shows a lack of trust in employees and can cause problems. What some leaders fail to realise is that if they shift their focus to the Why, then they won’t have to worry about the How.

The Why is the reason for doing what we do. We get out of bed to go to work. We eat because we are hungry. Everything we do starts with a reason Why we do it. With every organisation, the Why is to provide solutions to consumer problems. Likewise, every project in an organisation has its own unique Why. Employees might have fun working on a project or task, but the organisation is not interested in their fun. The purpose of a project is to solve an organisational problem.

The What

But we can take it a bit further. After confirming the Why, we need to consider the What. That is, What solutions are the organisation providing to consumers and what solutions are your team providing to the organisation.

Sinek uses the Apple Corporation as an example. Apple doesn’t just provide computers, everything they do, they believe in challenging the status quo. They believe in thinking differently. That’s the Why. What they do is to challenge the status quo by making their products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.

By shifting focus to the Why, your team can better understand the decisions being made by their leader and the organisation. This understanding naturally guides them to the How. Giving employees freedom to follow through with the How shows that you trust them, which has the fortunate side effect of increasing productivity and effectiveness.

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