Management Book Spotlight: “Start with Why” – Simon Sinek

Start with Why Simon Sinek Book Review for Managers

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Simon Sinek is a renowned leadership expert, whose 2009 TED talk “Start with Why” remains one of the most-viewed TED talks a decade later. His book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action expanded on his TED talk and is based on the simple but very important premise: ask yourself the question, “Why?” first and foremost. Learn more about the key leadership insights from “Start with Why”:

Sinek’s foundation of the book is what he refers to as the Golden Circle, which is comprised of three aspects of leadership: Why, How, and What.

Why – Why do you do what you do, or why does your company even exist? First and foremost, consider your purpose, core values, and beliefs. 

How – Once you know the reasoning, then contemplate how you will do it. Define a clear process with detailed steps to help you accomplish your why. 

What – What exactly does your company do? This is pretty straightforward – i.e., products or services offered to customers. 

The Golden Circle is the opposite of how most leaders approach their business strategies, according to Sinek. Usually, companies focus on what they do, then how, and then sometimes consider WHY as an afterthought. 

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By giving your Why the highest priority and building your strategy from there, you give people (either employees or customers) a reason to have an emotional response, rather than a logical one. For instance, if you want to attract top performers and keep them engaged, rather than focusing on what you can offer (i.e., a paycheck or workplace culture), you communicate the deeper meaning of their roles and the purpose they provide. 

Sinek cites Apple as an example of a company that starts with why. Rather than focusing on what products they make, Apple’s strategy is based on communicating its why by branding itself as a company that values innovation and being cutting edge, and the actual products they sell is the last thing they highlight, nearly as an afterthought.

Starting with why fosters a more organic, authentic and committed connection to your company. Sinek says that by doing so, it helps you get employees or customers through inspiration (i.e., working for the company or buying its products fulfills a purpose and adheres to one’s personal values) rather than manipulation (i.e., attracting talent through incentives or appealing to customers through limited time sale prices). 

Regardless of the specifics of your company and what level of leadership you are, clearly defining why you’re doing what you’re doing allows you to think critically, make decisions based upon clearly set criteria that ensure you’re working effectively toward your bigger picture goals, and maintain motivation and engagement. 

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