Santa’s message to educational leaders……..Start with Why

Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for 2016

I’ve deliberately chosen ‘Start with Why’ as my blog for this time of year. Before you meet your colleagues in early 2016 to inspire them about the year ahead, get clear with yourself why you are asking them to do what it is you want them to do.

'What' doesn't inspire

Sounds common sense? Well, research tells us most leaders don’t do this. Leaders mostly talk about what they want their people to do. So, why is it that being explicit about your why is important in leadership? Because talking about what doesn’t inspire or motivate your people to do what you want them to do.

Golden Circle and your leadership

We know this from Simon Sinek’s outstanding research and writing about how leaders and organisations inspire people. An excellent starting point is to view his 20 minute famous Inspirational Leadership TED talk.

In this talk he explains his fascinating ‘Golden Circle’ of leadership, which is a way of illustrating what leaders typically do in comparison to what exceptional leaders do when they want to engage their people in an important change and improvement. How does your leadership currently look, when you reflect on the Golden Circle?

Simon Sinek concludes that when most leaders talk about a desired change and improvement they mostly talk about what they want their team or people to do, and they usually spend some time on how they want people to do what they want them to do. But they usually don’t talk about or make explicit why the change and improvement is important. In so doing, most leaders fail to sufficiently inspire or motivate their people into action and gain strong commitment to the desired change.

Becoming a more inspiring leader

In my recent work with educational leaders, I ask them to prepare and share with others their big whys for an intended improvement. We start with an ‘elevator pitch’, where each leader imagines they’re in an elevator and have just 1 minute to make their why message explicit to others in the elevator as it travels. Each leader next develops their elevator pitch into a 10 minute talk supported with 3 power point slides. They imagine this is a presentation to their team or staff. In groups, each presentation is given and then critiqued by the group against criteria to evaluate its likely impact to inspire others.

Interestingly, most leaders find this tough work and comment “I don’t usually do this. Now I understand I should and I must!” Like many aspects of leadership, being a more inspiring leader can be learnt and with the help of coaching can make a positive difference to a leader’s effectiveness.

Christmas reading for leaders

Finally, I highly recommend for your holiday reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action (Penguin Books, 2009). It’s available in paperback, not too long (225 pages), and pretty inspiring! You can then prepare your inspirational start of year talk to your people to wow them!

Best wishes – David


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