In 1898, leading physicist and inventor Samuel Pierpont Langley had everything he needed to create the first successful aircraft. He was given $50,000 by the War Department develop a piloted airplane. As a professor at Harvard and a fellow of the Smithsonian, he had a countless number of connections to the leading scientists of the day, and he used these connections to hire the best and brightest for the project. However, almost no one has ever heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley, because in 1902, two brothers from Ohio used the profits from their bicycle shop to develop the first successful manned aircraft. The Wright brothers, with no college education and no connections to academia, became some of the most famous inventors in history. An obvious question then follows: What set the Wright brothers apart from Samuel Langley that made them successful?
To leadership expert Simon Sinek, the answer involves an understanding of what he refers to as ‘the Golden Circle’. The Golden Circle is a circle with three concentric rings: the outermost ring, which represents the ‘what’; the second ring, which represents the ‘how’, and the innermost circle, which represents the ‘why’. Together, these three rings can explain anything from the successful marketing campaigns of Apple to the success of Martin Luther King. In all cases, however, the same pattern develops. All visionaries start at the inner core, looking for why they do what they do to drive them through the ‘how’, where the make a plan of execution until they reach the final product, or the ‘what’. In the case of the Wright brothers, their success becomes quite clear. While Langley was driven by the ‘what’, the money and prestige that would result from his possible invention, the Wright brothers had a clear passion for their work that was unrelated to any financial or political gain; therefore, the Wright brothers could more clearly see the proper method of execution, and became some of the most successful inventors of their time. Sinek continues to explain that the Golden Circle is not just for the extremely intelligent and successful – an understanding of who you are and what drives you can make anyone successful.
In many ways, Simon Sinek is affirming the concepts described by IMT and KSM. Sinek advocates self-understanding, and believes that with it comes an understanding of your purpose. Further, he sees that any successful organization or group of individuals must first find their purpose, and seek to serve others before setting up a detailed business model. This idea is so similar to the principle of IMT, which seeks self-understanding in relation to the environment. Using either Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ or the principles of IMT, people can be guided to success while also doing well for the world.