Book Review | Start With Why

Title: Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Author: Simon Sinek
Publisher: Portfolio within Penguin Group
Year Published: 2009
Pages: 225
Topics Covered: Brand Marketing, Leadership

Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’ is a book that explores the powerful question of ‘Why’ within organizations and within leadership. Most companies don’t know why their customers are their customers. When companies don’t know this, they result to desperate measures to influence customers to doing what they want them to do. As the book presents, there are only two ways to influence human behavour: you can manipulate it or inspire it.

Typical manipulations include: dropping the price; running a promotion; using fear, peer pressure or aspirational messages; and promising innovation to influence behavior – be it a purchase, a vote or support. But what Simon points out is that,

“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

 The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle consists of Why, How and What.

What’s: Every single organization knows WHAT they do. Everyone can easily describe what product or service they sell.

How’s: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. Whether you call them a ‘differentiating value proposition’ or ‘unique selling proposition’, HOW’s are often given to explain how something is different or better.

Why’s: Very few companies and people can explain WHY they do WHAT they do. Making money or increasing shareholder value is not a WHY but a result states Simon. A WHY is your purpose, cause or belief. WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

WHY’s are our beliefs, HOW’s are the actions we take to realize the belief and WHAT’s are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived.

One of Simon’s most powerful examples in his book is when he breaks down Apple’s ‘Why’. If Apple was like most companies, they would present themselves this way:

We make great computers.
They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
Wanna buy one?

Simon applies the Golden Circle to Apple and the result is the following:

Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. (Why)
The way we challenge the status quo is be making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. (How)
And we happen to make great computers. (What)
Wanna buy one?

The difference with this version is it starts with WHY, instead of the WHAT. Simon states that The WHAT, their products, no longer serves as the reason to buy but they serve as the tangible proof of their cause.

Inspiring Leadership

Leading is not the same as being a Leader. Leading means you have a title where people are forced to follow you but being a Leader means you inspire people that they willingly follow you not because they are paid to or told to but because they choose to. One of the things that all great leaders have in common is the ability to find good fits to join their organizations – those who believe what they believe. Leadership like Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr., The Wright Brothers, all inspired the ‘Why’ within their movements.

Great Quotes from the Book

I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it to you if you need clarity on branding or if you need to re-align your organization to focus on the ‘Why’. At the core, this book is about leadership and about how great leaders inspire and focus their team to focus on ‘Why’.

My favourite quotes from the book about leadership were the following:

  • “…the goal is not to hire people who simply have a skill set you need, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.”
  • “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”
  • “Great leaders and great organizations are good at seeing what most of us can’t see. They are good at giving us things we would never think of asking for.”

The Ted Talk That Started It All

Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk is what led me to read this book. It is a must watch and still one of the most popular Ted Talks.

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