This review is just a summary of what I think are the most-insightful parts of Start With Why. I cannot speak for anyone else, and I strongly encourage you to read the actual book in order to grasp full concepts as given by Simon Sinek. These notes should only be used as a tool to refresh your mind once you have read the whole book. Use them to remember the key parts of this extraordinary publication.
In Start with Why; How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, author Simon Sinek offers great insights into why iconic leaders such as The Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King, and leaders of companies such as Southwest Airlines and Apple have influenced the way in which we live and how we view our lives. Sinek states and I agree, that the element these leaders share in common is that they commenced with “Why?” They had a vision, communicated it clearly to others, and found champions to push their vision through.
In the book, Sinek studies global leaders who have had the biggest impact on the world. He discovers that they all think, communicate and act in a similar way. He says, “Great leaders inspire individuals to act by giving them a sense of belonging, or purpose – a call to action.” P. 6
This book has six sections in which Sinek takes the readers through the 3 stages of the framework he calls “The Golden Circle.” He tells that it is on this framework that all great companies are built. The Golden Circle consist of three levels, and Sinek moves the reader from the center of the circle out, from ‘why’ we exist, to ‘how’ we do the things we do, and finally to ‘what’ we do. The main problem, Sinek posits, is that most companies do not know the main reason they exist.
Stage 1 – Why
“When we fully understand the vision of an individual or organization, why they do the things they do, we do not need to be manipulated to follow them, or to use the products or services they produce. We follow them because we share a vision with them and are loyal to their cause.” (p.54.)
The company Apple is one illustration of this;
- Why: In everything we do, we believe in altering the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
- How: The main way we alter the status quo is by making sure our products are simple to use, beautifully designed, and user-friendly.
- What: We make fantastic technology devices. Want to buy one? (P. 41)
Clearly, we know why Apple is in business and why it manufactures the products it does. We do not need to be manipulated to follow them, we either voluntarily share their vision or we don’t.
Sinek found out that all great leaders and firms could vividly articulate why they exist; their beliefs and their main cause. The ‘why’ then directed the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ they did it. He tells, “All accomplished leaders and firms, regardless of their size or the industry they operate in, acts and communicates from inside out” (P. 41) Those with unclear vision, he tells, described themselves in terms of what they do. They could vividly describe their products, latest changes they had made to their products, and the latest innovations they created. He states, “They may be able to explain how they do it, but they are unclear as to why.” (P. 52)
Stage 2 – How
Sinek moves readers through the title from the inner circle of ‘why’ to the element of ‘how’. The ‘how’, he states, is how people will bring belief to actions. The most-accomplished organization and leaders are those whose behaviors are well aligned with their vision; they have action driven values. “A why is simply a belief…How are the actions leaders and organizations take to realize the belief” (P. 67).
Stage 3 – What
Following from ‘how’ are the consequences of the actions that are taken; the ‘what,’ and covers consistency of all that is done, hiring and training of employees, creation and development of products, and marketing. There is uniqueness when beliefs are in agreement with what and how we do. “Actions are simply beliefs made simple” he states.
When beliefs are made clear, people view the organization or leader as authentic, and trust is developed. “When why, how, and what are at equilibrium, trust is fostered and value is perceived” (p. 85). This amount of transparency encourages others to join in. They clearly see the vision, and voluntarily agree to support it.
As Sinek proposes; “The key to success is to hire individuals who share the same passion for the Why – purpose, cause and belief. It is only in this environment that people can come up with fantastic ideas. Great firms attain success because the workers inside them feel protected. The strong sense of culture in such organizations creates a strong sense of belonging.” (P. 105)
In Start With Why, Sinek demonstrates critical distinctions between the skills needed to lead and what makes a truly great leader. Understanding the differences not only helps managers, but also the employees. Sinek cites a study that tells that 80% of U.S. citizens do not have their dream jobs, and that leaders who can inspire, not just incentivize or motivate, have teams that are most creative and productive.
Sinek goes on to explain how assumption, manipulation, perception and fear typically factor into many organizations and spread across all functions from accounting and finance to marketing. Although these tactics work to control operations successfully, there are significant tradeoffs. In the book, Sinek takes readers through the short term gains and long term costs that are the natural and undesirable consequences of such strategies, particularly since they relate to loyalty.
He posts and I agree, “Leadership calls for two things: A vision of the world that does not even exist, and the ability to communicate it clearly. But where does a vision come from? He says it is the power of why. “Our vision is…the real tangible results of what the world would look like if we spent all our days and effort pursuing our why. Leaders start with why and inspire action.” He states.
Apart from being heavily loaded with great advice, another useful feature of this book are the free support tools and podcasts offered via its official website, Sinek offers maps to vivid takeaways and actionable next steps to help get you thinking.
This book is for anyone seeking to inspire others to action. I suggest you buy it to capture the real sensation. It is one of the most informative and inspiring leadership books I have read.