Quick Review: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

“Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it,” Simon Sinek writes in his landmark book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action


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Sinek adeptly explores these questions and others in a book that probably site on every business leaders’ shelf. He notes that people like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. It was their natural ability to start with why, he suggests, that enabled them to inspire those around them and to achieve remarkable things.

In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that “natural born leaders” think, act, and communicate in the exact same way — and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be lead, and people can be inspired. The Golden Circle has three layers:

Why – This is the core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists. How – This is how the business fulfills that core belief. What – This is what the company does to fulfill that core belief.

Sinek argues that most companies work backwards, starting with what they do,  how they do it and then perhaps quickly mentioning why, though most never get that far.

To illustrate his point, Sinek asks readers to imagine if Apple also started backwards with this marketing message:

“We make great computers. They’re user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”

Apple has nailed this, of course, almost always starts with why and their marketing messages sound more like this:

“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

Truth is, any organization can explain what it does; some can even explain how they do it. But very few can clearly articulate why they do it. To make money or profits? Nope. Those are always results. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company or another? WHY are people loyal to some leaders, but not others?

WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company or another? WHY are people loyal to some leaders, but not others?

Starting with WHY works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. It also works in life.

Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories involving Apple, Southwest, Walmart, Starbucks and Microsoft, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others or who wants to find someone to inspire them.

Sinek, by the way, has the third most popular TED talk of all time: