Monday, October 25, 2010

Start With Why

A few weeks ago at an Educational Practice Leader workshop in Baltimore, we were focusing our discussion and speculation on the future of education and learning. One of the workshop events was a review and discussion of topics facilitated through videos from a number of well known futurists and inspired leaders. The most powerful and transformational video was a talk by author, teacher and leadership consultant, Simon Sinek. The TEDx Talk covered the essence of his book, 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action,' and while not specifically focused on our topic of the future trends in teaching and learning or the design of educational facilities, the talk reminds you to ask why you think about the impact of digital technology, globalization and the preparation of the next generation for the many global challenges. It forces you to think, overall, about why you do what you do. As Sinek says in the talk, people in business or, in our case, architectural and engineering design practice, generally know what their firm does, sometimes know how their firm goes about doing it, but very few can answer the most profound question of why they are doing it.

The why question is not about profit, sales or prestige, it's about the essential purpose and passion. Through examples from the Wright Brothers to Apple Computers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he shows that inspired leaders always start with why. The talk makes key points about leaders: you can learn to lead, leaders inspire and passion must be linked to purpose. His message "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" is repeatedly stated, and he highlights King's passion. King didn't say "I have a plan," he said "I have a dream." Closing the video, Sinek sums it all up:

"There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead, inspire us. Whether they're individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it's those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them."

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