We all know the following famous leaders: Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. Regardless of whether you see these people as persons who should run a country or the system your computer runs on, they are all responsible for at least a small part in the lives of persons living in developed countries nowadays. How is it that these people are followed by such large groups, whereas others never achieve this result despite all their efforts?
Let’s, for the sake of not turning this into a discussion on Trump’s leadership qualities, take Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs as the perfect examples of the phenomenon I would like to explain. Of course we are talking about two different concepts of leadership here; leading a changing thought to society on the one hand and setting the grounds of an immensely successful technological company on the other hand. Let’s start off with the case of Martin Luther King, the leader of a huge civil rights movement in America.
Martin Luther King’s speech is mainly famous for one specific line: “I have a dream”. This is an important aspect of why someone like King came to gain so many followers. He did not say “I have a plan” or “I want that things change”, instead he used his thoughts and hopes to convince people of where he believes in and what he hopes for, what he stands for and ultimately: what he lives for. Telling people the root cause of your existence as a human being is extremely hard as most people might not even have an idea of WHY they exists. But being able to find this cause and spread it forward, is found to be very moving and effective when you are aiming for a leadership position. Simon Sinek is the founder of the “Golden Circle Theory” which consist of three layers answering a specific questions: what, how, why1. Even though this theory is not scientifically proven, I think there is logic to his explanation of the response of humans on the use of this theory. Simon argues that, instead of working from the outside in (starting with what and ending at why), leaders should work from the inside out.
He explains this by using biology. The human brain parts responsible for behaviour is divided into three sections: the neocortex, the limbic brain and the reptilian brain2 .The brain sections are depicted below.
Simon believes that talking about “why” directly corresponds with our “limbic brains”, the part where our behaviour is controlled by our emotions. He argues that, when doing so, you control people’s behaviour by talking to the root of the behavioural brain first and then, you let them rationalise this decision by the neocortex. A pitfall of his explanation lies in the fact that he regards to “limbic brains” as if it has two parts, whereas in reality we have just one limbic brain. Also, the reptilian brain is not a part of his used justification. I guess that the real justification behind this theory might lie somewhere in this psychological aspect due to the functioning of our human brain, but it is not scientifically proven. However, I think that there is truth in what he is saying about starting with telling your root cause, if you want to convince your audience – whether you are an organisation or a human being.
Looking at Apple, Steve Jobs is the perfect organisational example of starting from your own believe, with him being the one who set it all to foot from only a small garage. Jobs was such a big believer in his own product, that he even decided to quit working for Apple when he and Sculley (Apple’s CEO in 1985) kept arguing over the future of Apple3. Instead of working for Apple under Sculley’s mission to focus on some niche segments, Jobs realised his dream: building a computer. His computer wasn’t a success on itself, so Jobs decided to turn to Apple with the idea of him becoming a consultant for Apple’s new products. However, Jobs became Apple’s interim CEO within 7 months and in three years he was the official CEO of Apple – after introducing the successful iMac3. His own belief made people believe in Jobs’ products, resulting in a leading position of one of the largest tech firms worldwide.
So the key message I would like you to take from this is that you should be clear about what you believe you can and should do, and follow this dream – It might get you to that management position you were always longing for.