Start with Why

“They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with why.”

In my first blog post I would like to write about a book that has impressed me significantly. It deals with the idea of how leaders can inspire us to our greatest potential. The book is called “START WITH WHY” and was written by Simon Sinek, an American author and motivational speaker.

I came across his book after watching Simon`s famous TEDx talk from 2009 about how great leaders inspire action, which really struck a chord with me. When I first watched his talks, I was working at a place where inspiration and great leadership were absolutely missing. Already after watching the talk I could have pinned down the miserable actions, which led to a non-existing working culture at my then current working place. In consequence I have quit my job and moved on.

The great thing about Simons idea, how to inspire people, is its simplicity. He named it the “Golden Circle”, which describes how great leaders and successful companies communicate and act. The principle, based on the golden ratio, is always the same: first you say why you do it, then you make clear how you do it and finally you say what you are doing. You communicate from the inside out. This pattern was found to be repeated by very successful companies over and over again. And it makes sense. Simon makes this phenomenon quite clear through a comparison. One computer company says: “We have developed a great computer with many great tools, it is the best, wanna buy one?” The other company starts like this: “We believe in making a difference, we believe in the power of each individual. By believing in this we started to create a product with a great design. Wanna buy one? “

The reason why products are made and why companies exist, that is the primary reason that we follow them.

Simon covers many outstanding companies and individuals in his talks and that’s why I`d like to highlight just want to highlight just one.  The quote I love most is about Martin Luther King. He says “Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech” and not “I have a plan” speech.” And when we hear these days our politicians talking about the 12 points plan to get ride of our countries debts, or how to increase employment, it just does not sound very much inspiring. It does not create a change.

Martin Luther King was able to move 250.000 people on August the 28th 1963 to Washington to hear his speech. And how did he do that in times of no exciting online social media to send invitations? He simply started with the belief to change the country for the better, excluding nobody. He simply started with Why. On the other side, why did the people show up? Here Simon makes for me a very interesting statement. He claims that a quarter of a million people did not show up for Mr. King. They showed up for themselves. They were there because of their beliefs and finally found a leader who was able to transform their desires into words. Great Leaders can exactly communicate what we might call “it feels right”. They know how to spread the ideas.

“Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them.”

Another aspect of successful organizations and companies is their recruitment strategy. This is an issue which has duelled in my mind for several months and where I feel a strong need of action in our economy. And I completely agree with Simon`s ideas about it. His point is, if you want to have a great company that runs well, then you need to employ who believe in your vision and not those who simply have a brilliant looking CV. I was always convinced that you should never only judge people’s abilities by their grades or CVs. This is a false track and leads to nowhere, because these are simply pieces of paper. They cannot give you a clear idea who this person really is and how he or she will perform in your company.

I think this is a real issue at the present. I once attended a presentation of a recruitment company about application strategies and what companies are looking for. The conclusion was that they only look for “buzz words” in your resume, which they can filter via specific algorithms to search out the optimum candidate for the position. That really hit me because in the end it means you are completely reduced to the words you choose and nothing more. No room is left for personality or the Chemistry between people. The lady who gave the talk had to admit that one company took an applicant, who was not favoured and recommended by the recruitment experts, simply because the chemistry between the applicant and HR matched.

You want to hire motivated people who are really interested in your work, not “buzz people”.

In my perspective, great leaders meet you at “eye level” when they want to hire you, because they know that it is mainly about your performance and inspiration that will drive the success of the company. They know the Why.

 “Leadership is always about people.”

One last topic I want to write about, which Simon covers in his book is: why do people stick with great companies. The following quote makes it quite clear: “Great organizations become great because the people inside the organization feel protected. The strong sense of culture creates a sense of belonging and acts like a net.” This is a very interesting but not completely new approach. I think on the level of intuition we all know how it feels to be in the right place or not. But we might not know why we felt that way. Simon gives us here one good explanation. Deep within us we are seeking for this feeling of protection and trust to be able to fulfil our potential. Great leaders understand the need of trust and they know how to build it. For some companies this might sound too exhausting and does not deliver increasing sales numbers in the short term. But here is the thing, you have to invest in trust if you want to have long-term success. So many companies just focus on the numbers and how to double the sales volume in the next 6 months. That is not sustainable, that is manipulative and money driven. It will not deliver a long lasting feeling of motivation in your employees. Because again, it is just about what and not why.

In summary, I can really recommend the book if you would like to go a little bit more in depth about his ideas and collection of examples of successful companies, next to Apple. But in many ways he describes the same ideas several times. For my taste it could have been 50 pages shorter. If you just watch his talks, that already will give you an idea about the Why.

He is a great speaker and knows how to inspire. I don`t know if he would call himself a leader, but he definitely hit the “zeitgeist” and inspired me deeply. It is obvious that he wants to share his vision.

“If this book inspired you, please pass it on to someone you want to inspire.”

And so I tried it my way. I hope you found some inspiration within and can pass it on to somebody else, who needs a bit of inspiration.



2 thoughts on “Start with Why

  1. vosbrad says:

    A very interesting first post!
    I do think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that ‘fly by night’ companies can turn out to be very profitable in a very short amount of time for the people at the very top, before then crashing down and ruining the livelihoods of many. Morally this is clearly the wrong thing to do, even when economically it can make a lot of sense for those in charge in the short term. Building a company that lasts is clearly an art and I fully agree that it depends upon having a shared vision and positive culture in all levels of hierarchy.
    I find it a little funny that Simon chose Apple as a company to focus on. Personally the way Apple marketed their products turned me off from the beginning. Too much focus on buzz words and forcing their point of view onto their customers, while at the same time pricing themselves out of the market for anyone who was looking for top performance. My view has changed in recent times, though, and I have started to appreciate the complete package that they have put together. They can leave the ridiculous marketing buzz words at the door, though…


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