Inspiring action

I recently watched an interesting Ted Talk by Simon Sinek called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The talk focused on such diverse leaders as the Apple computer company, Martin Luther King Jr., and aviation pioneers the Wright Brothers.

In the talk, Sinek said all great inspiring leaders–from business to social justice–think and act the same way. That is, the opposite to everyone else.

Sinek described what he calls The Golden Circle: Why, How, and what.

the golden circle

We all know what we do. Some people know how they do it, and very few people or organizations know why they do something.

Why is the purpose, cause or beliefs that we have. It’s the reason we get up in the morning and do what we do. Most people work from the outside in. But the inspired leaders work from the inside–from the why.

Working from the inside out also means we work using feelings and emotions first rather than analytical thinking.

As I listened, I couldn’t help think of the parallels between being a great leader and being a vegan. If you act based on what your soul tells you, you’re probably working from the inside out. If the stories of factory farmed animals tug at your heartstrings more than stats about the number of animals who suffer, you’re operating from the why.

Like leaders, vegans pursue something we believe in. And by doing so we can help others buy into the why and believe what we believe.

Sinek spoke about the Law of Diffusion of Innovation. A new term, perhaps, but you’ll recognize the concept.

law of diffusion of innovation

2.5% of people are innovators; 13.5% are early adopters; 34% are the early majority; 34% are the late majority; 16% are laggards.

If you want mass market success or acceptance of an idea, you can’t reach it until you reach the tipping point–between 15% and 18% market penetration. The early majority won’t try something until someone else has tried it first.

If you’re a vegan, you’re an innovator. You go against the grain and are comfortable making gut decisions and you’re driven by what you believe about the world.

Numbers vary, but about 2.5% of Americans are vegan (innovators). In our daily lives, we reach many people with our message–whether it’s overt leafleting and tabling or subtler ways of leading by example.

The vegan population is growing. What’s exciting to me is that as soon as the early adopters are on board and we reach the tipping point, the early majority will join in as well. From that point, veganism will snowball. This model applies to business models as well as social justice movements like civil rights.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. What vegans do is the proof of why we believe. And if others learn about veganism and believe being vegan is the best way to stop cruelty, feed the world, stay healthy, and save the environment, they’ll be vegan too. But they won’t do it because you are vegan. They’ll do it because they believe it’s right. They’ll do it for themselves.

You don’t need to be a leader to lead. You don’t need to hold a position of authority to inspire others. Others will follow those who lead because they want to, not because they have to. Those who start with why will inspire others and find others who inspire them.

The talk wasn’t about veganism but it’s a perfect fit. To listen to the presentation (it’s a quick 18 minutes), check out the Ted Talk link.