Start with Why: A book review by Bob Morris

Start with WhyStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everybody to Take Action
Simon Sinek
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2009)

If You don’t know WHY, WHAT and HOW really do not matter.

I agree with Simon Sinek that individuals as well as organizations must have a crystal clear sense of purpose or it will be very difficult (if not impossible) for them to decide what to do and how to do it. If they have the right purpose, it will guide and inform their decisions and, meanwhile, inspire and then
sustain their efforts. Sinek suggests that the Golden Circle [i.e. beginning with WHY at the center, then proceeding to determine HOW to produce WHAT] “helps us to understand why we do what we do. [It] provides compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve if we remind ourselves to start everything we do by asking why.” In brief, here is Sinek’s explanation:

“Every single company and organization on the planet knows WHAT they do…Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATs are easy to identify.”

Credit Sinek with a thorough coverage and brilliant analysis of issues inherent to statements such as these:

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

• “Those whom we consider great leaders all have an ability to draw us close and to command our loyalty. And we feel a strong bond with those who are also drawn to the same leaders and organizations.”

• “A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions – everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture, and whom you hire.”

• “You have to earn trust by communicating and demonstrating that you share the same values and beliefs. You have to talk about your WHY and prove it with WHAT you do. Again, a WHY is just a belief, HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief, and WHATs are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived.”

• “Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes from a clarity of WHY. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast, comes from a good night’s sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite. But only charisma can inspire. Charisma commands loyalty. Energy does not”

• “What companies say and do matters. A lot. It is at the WHAT level that a cause is brought to life. It is at this level that a company speaks to the world and it is then that we can learn what the company believes.”

I hope that these brief, representative excerpts from Sinek’s narrative suggest the thrust and flavor of his thinking. Here in a single volume is just about all that any business leader needs to determine precisely what her or his organization’s WHY is…or should be. Sinek also provides a wealth of information, insights, and recommendations as the alignment and coordination of the organization’s WHAT and HOW with its WHY.

Without the right WHY, even great leaders cannot inspire everyone in the given organization to take action. Only with the right WHY can an organization develop great leadership at all levels and in all areas of its operation.


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