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How to Be a Great Leader and Have Loyal Customers in Any Economy

How to Be a Great Leader and Have Loyal Customers in Any Economy

Due to the impact of the global health crisis on our economy, countless businesses are laying people off, yet in the same breath are asking their remaining staff to "trust them" and work even harder. These companies are failing to see that their fate and ability to survive in this climate is determined by those very employees who have been left openly vulnerable and awash with a fear of being disposable.

During my quest for personal clarity, I discovered author and speaker Simon Sinek. His TedTalk "How great leaders inspire action" has over 50M views, and his book "Start with Why" has sold more copies than many titles on the New York Times Bestseller List.

His erudite speech and wise written words made everything crystal clear. I work for an ocean conservation organization, and the Captains of our ships, like my colleague Captain Peter Hammarstedt, are the epitome of true leaders. They make people want to follow them, not by power or manipulation, but by their unwavering commitment to the reason behind everything we do. Steadfastly living and breathing the purpose of our mission every single day, and that passion permeates through the entire organization. I choose to stay where I am, no matter how hard it gets, because the people in charge deeply inspire me. And my passion enthuses those who support our cause, like philanthropists John Paul DeJoria and Jeff Skoll.

But this doesn’t just apply to organizations raising funds for an important cause. Whether you are an entrepreneur launching a startup, a business owner trying to survive and grow, or an executive in charge of keeping a team enthusiastic and engaged, it is worth considering Sinek’s theory on the power of starting with Why.

He uses “The Golden Circle" to illustrate the most effectual guiding principle for all businesses and their leaders. The Golden Circle starts with WHY (beliefs) at the very center, followed by HOW (actions), and finally WHAT (results) on the periphery.

He says that the way you approach your business is key to loyalty within your company and with your clients. It can be the determining factor on whether you achieve sustainable and substantial success. Especially during these uncertain times.

[Related: Live an Intentional Life]

Sinek suggests that most businesses have their tactic backwards. Starting at the outside of the circle, focusing on promoting their product and how it works, and consequently teaching their staff to do the same. They spend a great deal of time and money on marketing to people’s minds, but then wonder why they don’t get the results they were hoping for. The problem is most people buy emotionally and then justify logically later.

He galvanizes that it is mission-based organizations which succeed, those who work the circle from the inside-out. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And, for many consumers, when presented with multiple options, they go with their gut. They go with what feels right for them.

Think of brands like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Harley Davidson. The leaders of these companies started movements because they led with why the company exists at its core and how that relates to our lives. We know who they are and what they stand for. Their products are proof of their values. They have incredibly loyal followers and patrons because of the way they connect to consumers on a deeper level.

But here is the key: If you want to tap into your customer’s internal GPS for decision-making, your frontline workers must feel it first. That’s why it’s vital the people at the top-end of the organization take the time to explain the why behind what the company stands for and then consistently encourage their teams to work from that mindset.

Here are the three strategic ways to be a powerful leader, no matter what is happening in your industry or the world.

1) Don’t lead, inspire.

Inspired employees are more loyal and twice as productive, so take the time to infuse your WHY into the very marrow of your company. Keep your key mission at the forefront and always put your purpose before profit.

[Related: Leadership Begins with Love]

2) Don’t manage, guide.

Nobody wants to be governed, strong-armed, or micro-managed. But we are happy to be guided and encouraged to flourish. So, ensure you nurture your employees and it can help you reap substantial benefits.

3) Don’t focus on the customer, focus on the people dealing with the customer.

Sinek points out that most CEOs and Senior Executives never personally deal with their customer-base. Therefore, it is their responsibility to ensure their employees thrive instead. Remember that what is happening inside the organization can be felt by your customers, too, so employee and customer satisfaction should be seen as two sides of the same coin.

As entrepreneurs, product managers, and leaders, you depend on others for support. You can’t reach peak levels of success on your own. You have to show your team that you care about them, that their individual efforts matter, if you want them to invest everything they can to get you and your business to the next level.

So, if you’re building a company, start with WHY. If you’re selling a new product, start with WHY. If you’re leading a team or an organization, start with WHY. Approach marketing and sales, your employees, and your customer with your purpose and your business will be in a much better position to endure in this struggling climate and prosper again when things improve.

[Related: Mindfulness: Your Secret Business Weapon]


Farrah Smith is a Director at one of the world's top environmental charities and is an esteemed member of Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership Corps. She also owns Farrah Smith Coaching, where she teaches a transformational course that helps teens reach their full potential with an emphasis on mindfulness, neuroscience, and positive psychology.

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