Start With Why | Simon Sinek

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Author: Simon Sinek

Main Theme: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action
For People Who: Are stagnant in life, work, and service

Leaders do not merely hold a position of influence. Leaders do not merely hold a title. Leaders inspire us. When we hear their stories we are moved to action. We tear up. We buck up. We rise up. We feel challenged to face adversity and refuse to give up no matter how hard it gets. In the end, people don’t follow great leaders because they have to, but because they choose to. Great leaders don’t have to beg people to follow them; they inspire them to do so by the quality of their actions, the integrity of their intentions, and their competency to accomplish a shared vision. That is what Start with Why is all about.

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. –Start With Why, pg. 17

Chapter 1: Assume You know

Our behavior is affected by our assumptions, or the truths that we perceive. And we often have to balance between our rational thoughts and our gut feelings. This is where the power of WHY all begins. We have to go to the beginning of the process, system, company, organization, and ask WHY?

The ones that achieve more, the ones that get more out of fewer people and fewer resources, the ones with an outsized amount of influence, however, build products and companies and even recruit people that all fit based on the original intention. –Start With Why, pg. 15

Chapter 2: Carrots and Sticks

Sinek introduces one of his key ideas in this chapter: manipulation vs inspiration. Many, if not most, companies don’t even know WHY their clients choose their products. The same statement might be asked of leaders: WHY do people follow you? Price cuts, promotions, fear, peer pressure and other tactics are used to create unloyal customers. Leaders do the same. “We use fear to raise our kids. We use fear to motivate people to obey a code of ethics. Fear is regularly used in public service ads, say to promote child safety or AIDS awareness, or the need to wear seat belts.” (pg. 21) The problem with manipulations is that they work. And because they work, they fail to produce loyalty in a brand, product, or leadership. So what inspires people to follow?

FullSizeRender 3.jpgChapter 3: The Golden Circle

This idea serves as the core of Start With Why. The Golden Circle is WHAT a company does, HOW they do what they do, and WHY they do what they do. Where organizations and leaders go awry is we tell people WHAT we do, we even tell them HOW we’re going to do it – but what truly inspires loyalty is WHY we do what we do. People who love Apple products will pay more for them because they love what Apple loves – the same is true with Microsoft fans. If you don’t nail the WHY, then no one will care about the HOW or the WHAT. You may offer a better deal or experience, but the customer will quickly move on to the next gimmick without understanding WHY.

The Golden Circle provides compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve if we remind ourselves to start everything we do by first asking why. –Start With Why, pg. 38

Chapter 4: This Is Not Opinion, This Is Biology

Sinek believes the Golden Circle is not just conceptual, but biological. Human beings naturally have a need to belong. This need transcends culture and time – “No matter where we go, we trust those with whom we are able to perceive common values or beliefs.” (pg. 53) We are naturally drawn toward leaders who are able to adequately communicate their values and beliefs that make us feel like we belong.

When we communicate from the outside in, when we communicate WHAT we do first, yes, people can understand…information…but when we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls decision-making, and our language part of the brain allows us to rationalize those decisions. –Start With Why, pg. 56

Chapter 5: Clarity, Discipline and Consistency

If you don’t know WHY you do what you do, then you will never truly be able to inspire people to follow WHAT you do and HOW you do it. Clarifying WHY takes discipline to define it and consistency to maintain it.

Chapter 6: The Emergence of Trust

Sinek makes the statement that “Trust is a feeling, not a rational experience.” I heartily disagreed with this idea based on common experience. We only trust because we have good reasons to believe the object of our trust is actually trust worthy. Once again in this chapter, Sinek repeats the idea that when we understand WHY we do what we do, it motivates us and propels us to succeed. WHY fuels trust in an organization.

The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen. –Start With Why, pg. 99

Chapter 7: How a Tipping Point Tips

My advice here is to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”

Chapter 8: Start with WHY, but Know HOW

A clear sense of WHY sets expectations.” (pg. 147) For a follower to become loyal to a leader or a customer to a company, the WHY must provide a higher purpose, cause or belief.


The final chapters became so repetitive I found the remainder of the book difficult to work through. I wrote several times in the margins of Start With Why that it was overly repetitive with too many stories and not enough substance. The first few chapters lay out Sinek’s theory and seemed, to me, to be the chapters worth reading. Overall, I think the title of the book tells you everything you need to know. Unless you’re very intrigued by this subject, this is one you may want to pass.


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