Once again, I heard a great speaker at the Global Leadership Summit back in August 2018. They so inspired me to go out and buy some of his books! This one is called “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. It was a great read in explaining how great leaders start with the “why” when it comes to being successful. So many businesses start with what they do and how they do it without wrestling with why they do what they do. When you discover your “why” that will help to inspire and empower the people who work for you. And the answer to WHY is not just about making money. It is about what inspires people to want to give their best effort towards your cause.
Sinek states that “Great leaders . . . are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.” (p. 6). This sets up the rest of the book in detailing companies, like Apple, who have created a culture of inspiration and excitement for their workers. They believe in the WHY of the company which inspires them to do their best when it comes to WHAT and HOW. Sinek says that “By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” (p. 39). He goes on commenting that “We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special., safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.” (p. 55). These are the kinds of leaders in business and in the church that make serving more enjoyable. When we know what our WHY is, we can create vision, direction and inspiration. I have worked for pastors who are really good at this and some who were really bad at this. Now ultimately the United Methodist Church’s “WHY” is the make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But the question is how have individual pastors used this WHY to inspire their own congregations. You would think this is so simple but yet I have seen it go horribly wrong.
Another characteristic that Sinek adds to great leadership is authenticity. He points out that “Being authentic is not a requirement for success, but it is if you want that success to be a lasting success. Again, it goes back to WHY. Authenticity is when you say and do the things you actually believe.” (p. 69). Nothing is worse in a church setting than an inauthentic, fake leader. And the reality is that many young people can pick up on this big time. That is why I believe that many of the younger generations are leaving the church. The church is not doing well to help define it’s WHY and then lead authentically and with integrity to be who we are meant to be. When we lead like this we build loyalty and trust with the congregation as they are inspired to fulfill the purposes of the church. Especially in the context of the church, we ought to feel like we are working for something bigger than ourselves. The Bible gives us that inspiration but it takes great leaders to take that and inspire others to believe in the bigger picture of who we are and why we exist.
Sinek goes on to say that “Companies with a strong sense of WHY are able to inspire their employees. Those employees are more productive and innovative, and the feeling they bring to work attracts other people eager to work there as well.” (p. 95). A church that is living into its WHY will be a church that is attracting others who want to be a part of the vision and direction of that church. Good leadership will take time to develop their WHY and then use it to inspire the congregation to live into that vision.
Sinek also comments that “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” (p.99). Pastors who feel that they need to do it all themselves are prime candidates for burnout. But those who help to inspire WHY will create an environment in which people can feel free to think creatively and come up with their ideas. Sinek points out that “only when individuals can trust the culture of organization will they take personal risks in order to advance that culture or organization as a whole.” (p. 104). So creating a culture in which people are both inspired and feel a sense of trust with the organization will help to bring out the very best in people.
Passion is another key aspect to inspiring people towards the WHY. Sinek says that “Passion comes from feeling like you are a part of something that you believe in, something bigger than yourself. If people do not trust that a company is organized to advance the WHY, then the passion is diluted.” (p. 111). This is what a good pastor wants to do in advancing why we exist as a church. Creating passion to feel like you are part of something that is bigger than yourself and that you are a part of contributing to that cause is huge. Instead of having passive participants you can have a church that is alive and moving in the right direction.
Now you can have a vision but not know how to get to where you want to go. The WHY needs to inspire the HOW. Sinek states that “It is the partnership of a vision of the future and the talent to get it done that makes an organization great. This relationship starts to clarify the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement in an organization. The vision is the public statement of the founder’s intent, WHY the company exists. It is literally the vision of a future that does not yet exist. The mission statement is a description of the route, the guiding principles – HOW the company intends to create that future. When both of those things are stated clearly, the WHY-type and the HOW-type are both certain about their roles in the partnership. Both are working together with clarity of purpose and a plan to get there. For it to work, however, it requires more than a set of skills, it requires trust.” (p. 142). A vision statement and the mission statement must work together to accomplish its goal. But ultimately trust has to be the glue that holds it all together. In the context of the church I would agree that dynamic pastors and leadership teams need to work through their vision and their mission and be transparent about it in order to earn the trust of the congregation. Without trust, the whole thing can come to a screeching halt.
I have also been a part of churches that are busy for the sake of being busy without doing the due diligence of defining our WHY and then clarifying HOW we accomplish that. Without a clear WHY, we could have so many things going on that have no rhyme, reason or connection to ultimately answering why we are doing such things in the first place. Sinek says that “When people know WHY you do WHAT you do, they are willing to give you credit for everything that could serve as proof of WHY. When they are unclear about your WHY, WHAT you do has no context. Even though the things you do or decisions you make may be good, they won’t make sense to others without a clear understanding of WHY.” (205-206). We cannot be busy just to be busy. We need to define WHY we exist first and then structure WHAT we do and HOW to get there. This kind of visioning should help a church be more purposeful in its mission as people trust the vision and see how it is being fleshed out.
Sinek concludes his book by pointing out that “Leaders don’t have all the great ideas; they provide support for those who want to contribute. Leaders achieve very little by themselves; they inspire people to come together for the good of the group. Leaders never start with what needs to be done. Leaders start with WHY we need to do things. Leaders inspire action.” (p. 228). It is with this that the book wraps up this quest for understanding our WHY. Leaders are not the ones with all the ideas but instead, are the ones who can create an environment where people feel inspired by the vision that empowers them towards action. On rare occasions I have actually seen this work the way it is supposed to in the context of the church. But when it is done right, look out! That church will find itself, live into its purpose, and attract others to be a part of the kingdom building that it is supposed to be doing in the first place. It seems so simple but yet it can be so complex depending on the ability of the pastor and her/his team around them.
This was a great book to help understand the WHY behind what we do as an organization or church. It helped me to see the difference in creating a vision statement and how a mission statement comes out of that. This book also helped me to see the importance of trust with the people you work with. If they don’t trust you’ or you don’t trust them, not much is going to happen. But with trust, you can help to inspire people towards a vision bigger than themselves. When a church does this correctly there is a desire for others to want to plug in and contribute to the vision. And that right there is a dynamic church that will attract people to Christ rather than bore people to death or, worst yet, repel people away from the cause of Christ.