Why do certain people achieve success and why do others (with access to the same talent, resources, and abilities) not achieve success? Simon Sinek's Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action? offers an eloquent explanation for why some companies and people succeed when others doing the same thing don't using what he has coined the "inside out" theory; Sinek's idea is that all great inspiring leaders think, act and communicate the opposite way of those who don't achieve success. They focus on why they do what they do first and then they explain how their product or service works and what they are selling.
These great leaders inspire action by inspiring their target population to agree with their values and the purpose behind their product or service. Sinek's research places a spotlight on Apple computers, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King to showcase how people are drawn more to ideas, philosophies, causes and a purpose than to a mere product.
Sinek says that Apple and Dell both offer great products but Apple is far more successful due to their approach. Apple's says everything we do challenges the status quo; we believe and think differently. Customers largely agree with the company's philosophy and thereby become interested in what the products do for them and then buy Apple products.
Although Samuel Langley had far more access, capital resources, education and connections than the Wright brothers, Sinek said that Langley stopped working on the machine once he heard of the Wright brothers' success. Langley could have tried to improve the flying machine but he gave up with the project since he wouldn't be remembered for being the original inventor. Sinek attributes the Wright brothers' success in inventing the first flying machine to being fully dedicated to the project. They were driven by the cause not by money or fame. Similar to the Executives at Apple computers, the Wright brothers started with an idea that was changing the status quo and they weren't distracted or discouraged by multiple crashes or any other obstacles along the way.
Sinek's also ascribed Martin Luther King's success as a civil rights leader to his "inside out" approach to gaining support. He said 250,000 people showed up in Washington, D.C. on a steamy August day with no formal invitation or Internet to tell them the time for the speech because they shared the beliefs that King espoused in his speeches. "King succeeded in gaining influence and acquiring followers by making his structure their structure. Huge crowds showed up for themselves not for King because they believed in his vision about America. He didn't become famous because he said, I have a plan, he became famous because his speech focused on his dream and others could share in it!"
My recent interview with Greg Baldwin, the President of VolunteerMatch, is a current example of an individual whose successful leadership could be attributed to Sinek's "inside out" theory on how great leaders inspire action. Greg volunteered his own expertise to build a website that matches people and their expertise to organizations who need volunteers. His volunteering to build the website speaks volumes about his strong belief in the worthiness of the business.
Greg said that the best career advice he was given was from his parents; they advised him to do what he believes in. This mantra guided Greg's career decisions and gave him the confidence to leave a high paying job as an advertising account executive for a volunteer job building a website for matching volunteers with organizations. His departure from a career in advertising was driven by trying to find more meaningful work.
Following Sinek's inside out theory, VolunteerMatch's extraordinary success is due to Greg and Jay's Backstrand's commitment to helping alleviate suffering in the world and to creating a business model that could help facilitate their lofty goal with greater efficiency. The website, VolunteerMatch.org, offers people a chance to buy into Greg's vision and the wild success they've enjoyed is due to allowing all the participants to experience the benefits of volunteerism.
Greg and Jay created one of the most successful non-profits for facilitating volunteerism because they fully believed in their cause and were willing to invest all their energy and capital resources to bring their vision (and the website) to its fruition. They stayed focus on their primary goal to build a community of people who believed in the power of volunteering to enrich our lives and the world around us. They then applied their imagination to envision millions of good people and good causes coming together to form relationships that serve us all. And then finally, they used the Internet technology to advance the values and partnerships that strengthen our civil society.
Baldwin and Backstrand dedicated themselves to creating a business based on common values not on a superficial desire to achieve fame or fortune. That's probably why so many have heard of the website's name and not the President's (Greg Baldwin) or co-founder (Jay Backstrand). Now millions of others can share in their good work and find places with ease to volunteer and make a difference. VolunteerMatch is the web's largest volunteer engagement network; the organization strengthens communities and organizations across the country by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect.
Since its launch, the VolunteerMatch network has helped the nonprofit sector engage more that $4.5 billion worth of volunteer services. Greg's success as an entrepreneur, like that of Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King stemmed from his unshakable belief in what he was doing. That's evidently what it takes to gain the support and following of others or to mass market a product or service.