Do you know the WHY of why you’re an Educator? Confused? Read more….
Striving for greatness is something we all long for, whether it is for personal achievement or the success of our particular organization. I just recently heard Simon Sinek of TED Talks deliver an amazing video message on You Tube called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” In my opinion, all educators are leaders. You must be a great leader to get students to perform successfully. Sinek uses a graphic called the Golden Circle to explain how greatness is achieved.
Sinek points out that most organizations and/or individuals use a conventional method to get others on board by starting with the what and going to the why when promoting their product, company, organization, etc. These people and/or groups work the circle from the outside–in approach. However, according to Sinek, successful people/organizations function from the inside-out. Businesses, including schools, need to let their stakeholders know WHY they are doing something first to get buy in. Sinek deems that 100% of people know the what of what they’re trying to promote. The what might be the end product, such as a new computer, an exemplary school, an Olympic star, etc. Some people know the how. Examples of the how could be hard work, dedicated teachers, new facilities, online accessibility, establishing professional learning communities, analyzing data, etc. BUT… Only.. Very… FEW People… really.. Know…the… WHY! This is the secret to success according to Sinek. In his video, which I’ve posted below, Sinek explains how the Apple Company has monopolized the world of computerized products by simply reversing the conventional circle model to an inside-out model. Apple gains their fans by presenting the why first. Apple hits the hearts and minds of their audiences by explaining that their company understands the desires, wants, and needs of global consumers. Simply meaning, in my opinion, vision to vision meets and fuses. By doing this, Apple recognizes that they can win consumers by appealing to the sensitive side of humanity. Next, Apple explains how they will do this, and finally what will make this happen- their product (iPhone, iPad, iTunes). Because they have inspired their buyers first, Apple has grabbed the attention and successfully led the buyer to a product that is the answer to meet their needs (the what). Sound simple? Pretty clever, huh!
Another great example Sinek uses in his video is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech. King captured the attention of more than a quarter million people on the National Mall in Washington, DC in the early ‘60s. Even though it was a scorching hot day in the middle of August, Dr. King had follower after follower appear in support of his dream. He did this by stating what he believed in. He and others alike had a shared vision, which brought out a multitude of people to hear him speak. It was not Dr. King that they came out to see. People wanted to hear his vision, which was in line with what their hearts and minds desired. He was there to simply feed their souls. Sinek points out that Dr. King’s famous line is “I have a dream….” and not “I have a plan..” Interesting! His fans and followers were not there for the what but for the why! How many times as a school leader do we start with a plan (the what) without touching the real reason (the why) behind the plan?
How does this relate to our schools and the way we practice? Well, a good leader has teachers/staff/students/parents/community who want help carry out a vision because their beliefs are aligned with that of the person who is leading. If we have a vision, or a dream for our school, do we have others on our team who believe the same? Is your vision on your campus one that all believe in? I firmly believe this is possible, and it starts with our teachers and administrators. Our schools simply cannot afford to have people working just in pursuit of the paycheck or because it is a job with holiday perks. We cannot be there just because the task is always the same and never changing. A vision and dream are always changing to meet the needs of our students. Good leaders recognize there will be resistance and help those understand that resistive attitudes are not a supportive stance in schools where dreams are kept alive. This simply is not the profession to work with the conventional circle method. The price of failure is too high! When we fail students, we have made catastrophic mistakes. Educators need to begin with the why? Our students! They deserve teachers and leaders who know what they believe without reservation. Our schools and our students need vision minded educators who, through blood, sweat, and tears, will pour everything they have into bringing a dream to life. No exceptions. This job is not for the weak or holiday minded, it is for the tough, strong, big-hearted people who have a passion and drive to make anything happen because the why is too important to give any less. This philosophy reminds me of Jim Collins’ theme in his book Good to Great. Collins believes getting the right people on the bus is of upmost importance for the success of any organization.
Do you have what it takes in to be an educator today? Does your organization have what it takes? You must have buy-in, which means you must believe and sell your why first! It all starts with the why!! Are you there yet? Read your school’s vision and ask yourself if it has a why focus.