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Excited to raise your bar. Then start with asking WHY



K.S. Ahluwalia - Executive Coach and Mentor- Excalibre, Noida


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Aim of this interaction is not simply to fix the things that are not working- its to share pointers on which we can direct our focus on, amplify the things that do work. Aim is not to upset the solutions offered by others. Most answers that we get, when based on sound evidence, are perfectly valid, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right questions will always steer us wrong eventually.  The truth you see, observe is always revealed, eventually.

How do great leaders inspire everyone to take action? There are leaders and those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us. Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to, because we want to.  We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves.

This sharing is for those all who want to inspire others and for those who want to find someone to inspire them.

Reflect: why are some people, organizations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again.

Cause in business it doesn’t matter what you do.; it matters why you do it.

Let’s examine about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting, communicating, that gives some leaders the ability to inspire others around them. Although – natural born leaders – may have come into the world with a pre disposition to inspire, yet the ability is not reserved for them exclusively. We call all learn this pattern and just by little discipline, any leader, organisation, can inspire others, both inside, outside their organizations, to help advance their ideas about their vision. We can all learn to lead.

Aim of this interaction is not simply to fix the things that aren’t working- it’s to share pointers on which we can direct our focus on, amplify the things that do work. Aim is not to upset the solutions offered by others. Most answers that we get, when based on sound evidence, are perfectly valid, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right questions will always steer us wrong eventually.  The truth you see, observe is always revealed, eventually.

Stories that follow are of those individuals and organizations that naturally embody this pattern- they are the ones that start with Why.

Case study 1

Goal was ambitious, pubic interest high, experts eager to contribute, money readily available. Armed with every ingredient for success, Samuel Lanley, set out in early 1900 to be the first man to pilot an aeroplane. Highly regarded, he was a senior officer at the Smithsonian Institution- a mathematics professor who also had worked at Harvard. Friends included some of the most powerful men in government, business, including Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell.  Langley was given a $ 50,000 grant from the west department to fund his project, a tremendous amount of money that time. He pulled together the best minds of the day, a veritable dream team of talent and know how.

Langley and his team used the finest materials, the press followed him everywhere. People across country were riveted to the story, waiting to read that he had accomplished his objective. With the team he had gathered and ample resources, his success was guaranteed. Or was it?

A few hundred miles away Wilbur and Orville Wright were working on their own flying machine. Their passion to fly was so intense that it inspired enthusiasm, commitment, of a dedicated group in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. There was no funding for their venture, no government grants, no high level connects. Not a single person on that team had an advanced degree or even a college education, not even both Wright brothers.  Yet the team banded together in a humble bicycle shop and made their vision real. December 17th, 1903, a small group witnessed a man take the flight for the first time in history.

How did Wright brothers succeed, when a better equipped, better funded, better educated team, could not?

It wasn’t luck.

  • Both were highly motivated.
  • Both had strong work ethic.
  • Both had been scientific minds.
  • Both were pursuing the same goal.

Then what was the distinction?

Wright brothers were able to inspire those around them and truly led their team to develop a technology that would change the world – the Wright brothers started with why.

Case study 2

In 1965, students on the campus of UCLA were the first to publicly burn their draft cards to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Northern California was a hot bed of anti- government and anti-establishment sentiment: hot bed of clashes, riots in Berkley, Oakland was beamed around the globe, fuelling sympathetic movements across the US and Europe. But it wasn’t until 1976, nearly 3 years after the end of America’s military involvement in the Vietnam conflict that a different revolution ignited.

They aimed to make an impact, a big one, even challenged the way why people perceived how the world worked. But these young revolutionaries did not throw stones or took up arms against the authoritarian regime. Instead, they decided to beat the system against at its own game. For Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, co- founders of Apple – the battle field was business and the weapon of choice, was a PC.

PC revolution was beginning to brew when Wozniak built the Apple 1. Just starting to gain attention, the technology was primary seen as a tool for business. Computers were too complicated and out of the price range for most, yet Woznaik, a man, not motivated by money, envisioned a nobler purpose for the technology. He saw PC as a way for the little man to take on a large corporation. If he could figure out a way to get this, in the hands of this individual, this PC would give nearly anyone the ability to perform many of the same functions, as a vastly better resourced company.  PC could level the playing field and change the way the world operated.  Woz designed the Apple 1, improved the technology with Apple 11, to be affordable, and simple to use with better features.

No matter how visionary, how brilliant, a great idea or a great product isn’t worth much if no one buys it. Woz’s friend, 21 year old Steve Jobs, knew exactly, what to do. Though he had experience in selling surplus electronic parts, Jobs, would prove to be much more than a good salesman. He wanted to do something significant in the world and building a company, was how he was going to do it. Apple was the tool he used to ignite this revolution.

In the first year of business with only one product, Apple made 1 million dollars in revenue , by end, of 2nd, they touched $ 10 million, in 4th they sold $ 100 million worth of PC’s and in 6 years, it raced past $ 1 billion with over 3000 employees.

Jobs and Woz were not the people taking part in PC revolution. They weren’t the only smart guys in business; in fact they didn’t know much about business at all. What made Apple special was that were able to repeat the pattern many times over with increasing innovation, improved understanding of business tactics. Unlike its competitors Apple had successfully challenged conventional thinking within the computer industry, the small electronic industry, the music industry, the mobiile phone industry, and the broader entertainment industry. And the reason was simple. Apple inspires. Apple starts with why.

Case study 3

He was not perfect, had complexities, was not the only one who suffered in pre-civil rights America, and there were plenty of charismatic speakers.  Yet Martin Luther King Jr had a gift – knew how to inspire people, he knew that if the civil rights movement needed to succeed, if there was to be a real , lasting change, it would take more than him and his closest allies. It would take more than rousing words and eloquent speeches. It would take people, tens and thousands of average citizens, united by a single vision, to change the country. At 110.00 am, August 28, 1963, they would send a message to Washington, that it was time for America to steer home a new course.

The organizers of civil rights movement did not send out thousands of invitations, nor was there a website to check the date. Yet the people came- kept coming and coming. All told, a quarter of a million people descended on the nation’s capital in time, to hear the words immortalized by history, delivered by the man who would lead  a movement that would change America forever- ‘I have  a dream’.

The ability to attract multitude of people across spectrum, geographical regions, of diverse colours, ages, economic strata, professions, races, to join together on the right day, at the right time, took something special. Though others knew what had to change in America to bring about civil rights for all, it was Dr. King who was able to inspire a country, to change not just for the good of a minority, but for the good of everyone. Martin Luther King started with Why.

There are leaders and there are those who lead. With only 6% market share in US and about 3% worldwide Apple is not the leading manufacturer of PC’s, yet the company leads the computer industry, and is now a leader in other industries as well.

Their goals were not different than anyone else’s, their systems, processes were easily replicated. Yet the Wright brothers, Martin Luther King’s stand out amongst their peers. They stand apart from the norm and their impact is not easily copied. They are members of a very select group of leaders who do something very, very special. They inspire us.

Just about every person, organization needs to motivate others to act for some reason or another- some want to motivate a purchase decision- others are looking for support or a vote. Still others are keen to motivate the people around them to work harder, smarter, or just follow the rules. The ability to motivate people is not, in itself difficult. It’s usually tied to some external factor. Tempting incentives or threat of punishment will often elicit the behaviour we desire.

General Motors, for example, so successfully motivated people to buy their products that they sold more cars than any other auto maker in the world for over 77 years. Thought they were leaders in the industry, they did not lead.

Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose, belonging, that has little to do with any external benefit, or incentive to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they are swayed, but they are inspired and for those inspired, motivation to act is deeply personal.  They are less swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire create a following of people- supporters, voters, customers, workers- who act for the good of the whole, not because they have to but they want to.

Though relatively few in number, the organizations, leaders with the natural ability to inspire us come in all shapes, sizes. They can be found both in public, private sectors, in all sorts of industries- selling to consumers or to other businesses. Regardless of where they exist, they exert a disproportionate amount of influence in their industries and have both- the most loyal customers, the most loyal employees. They tend to be more profitable than others in industry and are more innovative, most importantly, they are able to sustain all these things over the long term. Many of them change industries whilst some of them even change the world.

Wright brothers, Apple, Dr King Jr, are just 3 of the many examples. Harley Davidson, Disney, South west Airlines, TATA, John F Kennedy, were also able to inspire. No matter from where they hail, they all have something in common.

All inspiring leaders and companies, regardless of size industry, think, act and communicate exactly alike. While it’s the complete opposite of everyone else’s

What if we could all learn to think, communicate like those who inspire. Imagine a world in which the ability to inspire is practiced not just by a chosen few, but by majority. Studies show that 80% + of working executives, do not have/get their dream job. If more knew how to build organizations that inspire, we could live in a word in which statistics was reverse- a world, in which 80% loved their jobs. People, who love going to work, are far more productive, creative, innovative. They go home happier, have happier families, treat their colleagues, clients, customers better.

Inspired employees build stronger companies, stronger economies and if we can inspire others to do the things that inspire others, then you and I together, can build these companies, the economy and a world in which trust, loyalty, are the underlying norms, not exceptions. This sharing and other subsequent ones are not designed to tell you what to do or how to do it. Aim isn’t to give you a course of action. Its aim is to offer you the cause of action.

For those who have an open mind for new ideations, who seek to create long-lasting  success and who believe  that their success requires aids of others , I throw a challenge- in case you want to be known and not intruded , start with why.

Excited to re-imagine your corporation –making it more purposeful, committed, engaged and creative, then get in touch for a constructive interaction at the link shared below.

Special thanks to Simon.