Leadership: What Makes a Person Follow

In the video above Simon Sinek is talking about creating a leadership culture that people will follow. His big point is the following quote:

“People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”



Love this quote.

The timeless application to general leadership is huge. Absolutely huge. So what does it mean? To be a true leader you have to believe in what you are doing. If you don’t, the people you are trying to lead will know. Are you in a leadership position, trying to affect change, inspire people, and lead…all for the sake of your paycheck? This does not work. “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” Read that again…they buy why you do. And if they know your why is selfish and for yourself…why would they want to be a part of that. This is one of the cores of being a good leader. If people know the ‘why’ behind your leadership and it is something they can get behind…they will follow you…sometimes to the ends of the earth or when it seems crazy.


The second sentence, “And what you do simply proves what you believe” is just the proof of what you believe. No matter how hard you try to hide them, your actions will expose your beliefs. Or maybe not your actions, but your attitude while completing them. Have you ever had someone offer to do something and never follow through? How does that make your feel? Or have you ever heard the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do?”

do as I say leadership comic
Does this sound familiar?

These are both examples of a leader not invested in the why of doing something. Because, as a leader, if you are invested in the why, you will do what you say. You will help those you offer to help. And you will do it all with an attitude that shows you believe in what you are doing and why you are doing it.

IMMOOC: The 8 Characteristics and Me

characteristics of innovator's mindset

The above image by Sylvia Duckworth is a great illustration of what it looks like to be deep into the Innovator’s Mindset. Chapter 3 of George Couros’s book is attempting to identify how an innovator views the world. As an exercise for myself, I wanted to rate myself in each of the 9 characteristics and then revisit this post at the end of our IMMOOC.

Empathetic 4/5

This characteristic is defined by the question of, “Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?” One of my stronger qualities (confirmed by my wife) is that I am great at listening and making people feel safe. This translates over to my classroom where my students feel they can take risks and not worry about me being punitive.

Problem Finders/Solvers 3/5

I am good when it comes to solving problems and coming up with awesome solutions. But being able to seek out and find the problems in the first place…that I am not as good at. If i were to break to down, I would give myself a 4/5 on solving and a 2/5 on finding. I like the addition of the problem finding to the characteristic.

Risk Takers 2/5 (4/5)

I put two answers because my willingness to take risks is tied to the atmosphere of the place that I am taking the risks. If there is the understanding that it is ok to take risks…then I am much more willing. If I feel that my risk taking will get me in trouble or be scorned, I am much less likely to think in this manner. Actually, I tend to still think about the risks and the opportunities I could take, but I wont act on them. I am hoping to bring this out more over the next few weeks.

Networked 3/5

Before beginning this IMMOOC, I would have had to rate myself as a 1/5. The improvements from this alone have been great and I am hoping to continue to grown my network even after the IMMOOC is over.

Observant 5/5

My personality is such that I love to sit back and take stuff in. Take in the interaction of those around me. Take in the new content at conferences. This allows me to notice when things need to change and when things are going well. If I had to name my strongest characteristic, being observant is it.

Creators 2/5

I find myself stalling out on creating new material. I begin to create something…and then I get stuck and it falls by the wayside. This falls closely with the characteristic of being resilient. I know that I can create…I have had some breakthrough moments with this, but many times I have not been resilient enough to carry through.

Resilient 4/5

In many ways, I am very resilient. Because of this, I do not allow what people think of me to effect me much. If one of my ideas fails, I try another. Thinking back to the risk raking, my hesitancy to take risks does not come from a lack of resilience. When I get hammered for taking risks, I am even more determined to succeed the next time.

Reflective 3/5

This is one of the most important characteristics and it is one that I have always been lukewarm at doing. Sometime I go on big reflective kicks and get a lot out of it and sometimes I go for weeks and months without stopping to think on what I have been doing. My goal here is to become more consistent with my reflections.


I look forward to revisiting this post in a couple months and see how I have grown. I want to end with a quote from the Innovator’s Mindset:

“If we do not model these characteristics and the willingness to innovate inside of the box, why would our students do anything different? They Won’t.”

Finally, the first step in creating change and moving my organization towards innovation and the characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset is to model them myself.

Innovation and the Innovator’s Mindset #IMMOOC

book innovator's mindset innovation
The Innovator’s Mindset

The #IMMOOC begins officially this weekend. It revolves around a book called The Innovator’s Mindset and provides me the opportunity practice an important parts of innovation: personal reflection. That is where this blog comes in. Beginning a blog sounds like a huge task. Once started will it become one of the many unfinished projects that litter the internet? My hope is that, at the end of the #IMMOOC, this one will not join those. Instead, this will become my small piece of the internet to share my thoughts and reflections.

Initial Thought on Innovation

My first thought is this: the world we live in is ever changing. As educators, the content and the methods we use are also ever changing. To continue and try to use the same methods or teach the same content without integrating the new defeats the term ‘education.’ How could any of our students be considered educated if what they have learned leaves a huge gap of the new, of the things that have changed since we as teachers went to school?

Do I want to be a teacher who teaches the same thing the same way for 40 years? Or do I want to be an innovative educator is always exploring and learning the best way to teach?