I keep coming back to this 2009 TED talk by Simon Sinek on the power of “why.” I often find the really smart people I work with jump right into the details: what they’re going to do and how it should be done. I also have found that academic leaders, in particular, frequently begin their communication with statements about problems or deficiencies. I think this is because they spend their careers as scholars identifying problems to solve and challenging one another’s research in order to expose the flaws and make sure it holds up.
However, once you move into leadership, the job is different. You need to inspire and motivate the people around you to give their best effort, even when the going gets tough. To do this, it’s important to start with the “why”: Why are we doing this? What will it look like if we are wildly successful? Research shows that a positive and clear articulation of the destination inspires people and makes them work harder. Stating your goals and aspirations in a positive way is much more likely to get your team working enthusiastically, persuade the organization to commit resources, and win support from donors. Continue reading