Thoughts on Leadership: Why Apple Inspires People

Like millions of other people, you've likely wondered out loud at some point, "What makes Apple so successful?" It is an extraordinary technology leader, founded and led by extraordinary men. While it's easy to explain what a company does or how an organization works, it is much more difficult to understand why. Why is Apple so driven not just to succeed, but to lead in consumer technology, to change the world and stop at nothing less? It is the why that separates amazing companies from mediocre ones – just as it's the why that separates people who truly lead and inspire from those who are just in power positions.

Apple's cofounders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, are great examples of influential leaders (not just men in positions of leadership). I've been reading about the common traits of true leaders in Simon Sinek's book, "Start With Why." By studying influential leaders, Sinek discovered they all think, act and communicate in the same way – they start with why, and that is what inspires people to follow them to success.

In 1979, best friends Wozniak and Jobs created the first personal computer. Why? What was their why? Wozniak built the Apple I with a vision of giving average folks the same computer power as big corporations. He wanted to help level the playing field in business. Before Apple I, computers were too complicated and expensive for the average individual; they were primarily used as a tool for privileged businesses. Wozniak's why was to enable individuals to compete.

What about Jobs? What was his why? He was the salesman – an amazing one. He dreamed of building a company that would change the world. With just one product, Apple Computer made $1 million in revenues in its first year. It made $10 million in its second year and in just six years became a billion-dollar company.

Even more remarkable than Apple's fast growth is its longevity. More than 30 years later, the company continues to succeed – empowering individuals with world-class technology. Changing the world. Apple didn’t stop with the personal computer; the company continued to conquer the small electronics, music, mobile phone, and entertainment industries. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs succeeded because they started with why. They had a contagious passion that fostered real innovation.

What's even more interesting about Apple is that not only did the company's founders inspire its employees to achieve greatness, but also it inspires its customers – to the point where thousands camp out overnight to buy its new products.

Sinek's following excerpt sums up the leadership lessons from this legendary company:

“Great leaders are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people- supporters, voters, customers, workers- who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.”