Table of Contents
PART 1 - A WORLD THAT DOESN’T START WITH WHY
Chapter 1 - ASSUME YOU KNOW
Chapter 2 - CARROTS AND STICKS
PART 2 - AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE
Chapter 3 - THE GOLDEN CIRCLE.
Chapter 4 - THIS IS NOT OPINION, THIS IS BIOLOGY
Chapter 5 - CLARITY, DISCIPLINE AND CONSISTENCY
PART 3 - LEADERS NEED A FOLLOWING
Chapter 6 - THE EMERGENCE OF TRUST
Chapter 7 - HOW A TIPPING POINT TIPS
PART 4 - HOW TO RALLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE
Chapter 8 - START WITH WHY, BUT KNOW HOW
Chapter 9 - KNOW WHY. KNOW HOW. THEN WHAT?
Chapter 10 - COMMUNICATION IS NOT ABOUT SPEAKING, IT’S ABOUT LISTENING
PART 5 - THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IS SUCCESS
Chapter 11 - WHEN WHY GOES FUZZY
Chapter 12 - SPLIT HAPPENS
PART 6 - DISCOVER WHY
Chapter 13 - THE ORIGINS OF A WHY
Chapter 14 - THE NEW COMPETITION
PORTFOLIO / PENGUIN
START WITH WHY
Simon Sinek is leading a movement to inspire people to do what inspires them.
With a bold goal to build a world in which the vast majority of people go home every day feeling fulfilled by their work, he is invited to share the concept of WHY with a dizzying array of organizations. From members of Congress to foreign ambassadors, from small businesses to corporations Microsoft and Wal-Mart, from Hollywood to NASA to the Pentagon, those who want to inspire people want to learn about the WHY. His TEDx Talk about WHY is one of the top twenty most viewed talks on TED.com.
Sinek is also an adjunct staff member of the RAND Corporation, teaches graduate level strategic communications at Columbia University, and is active in the arts and not-for-profit world. When not living in hotels, he lives in New York City.
PORTFOLIO / PENGUIN
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First published in the United States of America by Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2009 This paperback edition with a new preface and new afterword published 2011
Copyright © Simon Sinek, 2009 All rights reserved
“The Sneetches” from The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. Trademark TM and copyright © by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. 1953, 1954, 1961, renewed 1989. All rights reserved.
Used by permission of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc. and
International Creative Management, Inc., agents for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.
Start with why : how great leaders inspire everyone to take action / by Simon Sinek. p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Leadership. I. Title.
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who finds good ideas and makes them great
There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire us.
Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.
This is a book for those who want to inspire others and for those who want to find someone to inspire them.
THE POWER OF WHY
When I first discovered this thing called the WHY, it came at a time in my life when I needed it. It wasn’t an academic or intellectual pursuit; I had fallen out of love with my work and found myself in a very dark place. There was nothing wrong with the quality of my work or my job, per se; it was the enjoyment I had for that work that I’d lost. By all superficial measurements, I should have been happy. I made a good living. I worked with great clients. The problem was, I didn’t feel it. I was no longer fulfilled by my work and I needed to find a way to rekindle my passion.
The discovery of WHY completely changed my view of the world and discovering my own WHY restored my passion to a degree multiple times greater than at any other time in my life. It was such a simple, powerful, and actionable idea, that I shared it with my friends. That’s what we do when we find something of value, we share it with the people we love. Inspired, my friends started making big life changes. In turn, they invited me to share this idea with their friends, the people they loved. And so the idea started to spread.
It was at this point I decided to turn myself into the guinea pig. It didn’t seem right that I would share or promote a concept that I didn’t practice myself. So I was going to practice it as wholly as I could. The only reason I am where I am today, this representative of WHY, is for one reason and one reason only: because of other people.
I have no publicist. I have had only very little national press coverage. Yet the concept of WHY is spreading far and wide because it resonates with people on such a visceral level that they share it with those they love and care about. That I was given the opportunity to write a book about the concept has allowed the depth idea to spread without me. The TEDx Talk I gave that was posted on ted.com continues to spread far and wide not because of any social media strategy. It spreads because this message is inherently optimistic. It is inherently human. And those who believe in it share it.
The more organizations and people who learn to also start with WHY, the more people there will be who wake up feeling fulfilled by the work they do. And that’s about the best reason I can think of to continue sharing this idea.
July 28, 2011
WHY START WITH WHY?
This book is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them. Although these “natural-born leaders” may have come into the world with a predisposition to inspire, the ability is not reserved for them exclusively. We can all learn this pattern. With a little discipline, any leader or organization can inspire others, both inside and outside their organization, to help advance their ideas and their vision. We can all learn to lead.
The goal of this book is not simply to try to fix the things that aren’t working. Rather, I wrote this book as a guide to focus on and amplify the things that do work. I do not aim to upset the solutions offered by others. Most of the answers we get, when based on sound evidence, are perfectly valid. However, if we’re starting with the wrong questions, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right answers will always steer us wrong . . . eventually. The truth, you see, is always revealed . . . eventually.
The stories that follow are of those individuals and organizations that naturally embody this pattern. They are the ones that start with Why.
The goal was ambitious. Public interest was high. Experts were eager to contribute. Money was readily available.
Armed with every ingredient for success, Samuel Pierpont Langley set out in the early 1900s to be the first man to pilot an airplane. Highly regarded, he was a senior officer at the Smithsonian Institution, a mathematics professor who had also worked at Harvard. His friends included some of the most powerful men in government and business, including Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell. Langley was given a $50,000 grant from the War Department to fund his project, a tremendous amount of money for the time. He pulled together the best minds of the day, a veritable dream team of talent and know-how. Langley and his team used the finest materials, and the press followed him everywhere. People all over the country were riveted to the story, waiting to read that he had achieved his goal. With the team he had gathered and ample resources, his success was guaranteed.
Or was it?
A few hundred miles away, Wilbur and Orville Wright were working on their own flying machine. Their passion to fly was so intense that it inspired the enthusiasm and commitment of a dedicated group in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. There was no funding for their venture. No government grants. No high-level connections. Not a single person on the team had an advanced degree or even a college education, not even Wilbur or Orville. But the team banded together in a humble bicycle shop and made their vision real. On December 17, 1903, a small group witnessed a man take flight for the first time in history.
How did the Wright brothers succeed where a better-equipped, better-funded and better-educated team could not?
It wasn’t luck. Both the Wright brothers and Langley were highly motivated. Both had a strong work ethic. Both had keen scientific minds. They were pursuing exactly the same goal, but only the Wright brothers were able to inspire those around them and truly lead their team to develop a technology that would change the world. Only the Wright brothers started with Why.
In 1965, students on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, were the first to publicly burn their draft cards to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Northern California was a hotbed of antigovernment and antiestablishment sentiment; footage of clashes and riots in Berkeley and Oakland was beamed around the globe, fueling sympathetic movements across the United States and Europe. But it wasn’t until 1976, nearly three years after the end of America’s military involvement in the Vietnam conflict, that a different revolution ignited.
They aimed to make an impact, a very big impact, even challenge the way people perceived how the world worked. But these young revolutionaries did not throw stones or take up arms against an authoritarian regime. Instead, they decided to beat the system at its own game. For Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the cofounders of Apple Computer, the battlefield was business and the weapon of choice was the personal computer.
The personal computer revolution was beginning to brew when Wozniak built the Apple I. Just starting to gain attention, the technology was primarily seen as a tool for business. Computers were too complicated and out of the price range of the average individual. But Wozniak, a man not motivated by money, envisioned a nobler purpose for the technology. He saw the personal computer as a way for the little man to take on a corporation. If he could figure out a way to get it in the hands of the individual, he thought, the computer would give nearly anyone the ability to perform many of the same functions as a vastly better resourced company. The personal computer could level the playing field and change the way the world operated. Woz designed the Apple I, and improved the technology with the Apple II, to be affordable and simple to use.
No matter how visionary or how brilliant, a great idea or a great product isn’t worth much if no one buys it. Wozniak’s best friend at the time, the twenty-one-year-old Steve Jobs, knew exactly what to do. Though he had experience selling surplus electronics parts, Jobs would prove to be much more than a good salesman. He wanted to do something significant in the world, and building a company was how he was going to do it. Apple was the tool he used to ignite his revolution.
In their first year in business, with only one product, Apple made a million dollars in revenues. By year two, they did $10 million in sales. In their fourth year they sold $100 million worth of computers. And in just six years, Apple Computer was a billion-dollar company with over 3,000 employees.
Jobs and Woz were not the only people taking part in the personal computer revolution. They weren’t the only smart guys in the business; in fact, they didn’t know much about business at all. What made Apple special was not their ability to build such a fast-growth company. It wasn’t their ability to think differently about personal computers. What has made Apple special is that they’ve been able to repeat the pattern over and over and over. Unlike any of their competitors, Apple has successfully challenged conventional thinking within the computer industry, the small electronics industry, the music industry, the mobile phone industry and the broader entertainment industry. And the reason is simple. Apple inspires. Apple starts with Why.
He was not perfect. He had his complexities. He was not the only one who suffered in a pre–civil rights America, and there were plenty of other charismatic speakers. But Martin Luther King Jr. had a gift. He knew how to inspire people.
Dr. King knew that if the civil rights movement was to succeed, if there was to be a real, lasting change, it would take more than him and his closest allies. It would take more than rousing words and eloquent speeches. It would take people, tens of thousands of average citizens, united by a single vision, to change the country. At 11:00 a.m. on August 28, 1963, they would send a message to Washington that it was time for America to steer a new course.
The organizers of the civil rights movement did not send out thousands of invitations, nor was there a Web site to check the date. But the people came. And they kept coming and coming. All told, a quarter of a million people descended on the nation’s capital in time to hear the words immortalized by history, delivered by the man who would lead a movement that would change America forever: “I have a dream.”
The ability to attract so many people from across the country, of all colors and races, to join together on the right day, at the right time, took something special. Though others knew what had to change in America to bring about civil rights for all, it was Martin Luther King who was able to inspire a country to change not just for the good of a minority, but for the good of everyone. Martin Luther King started with Why.
There are leaders and there are those who lead. With only 6 percent market share in the United States and about 3 percent worldwide, Apple is not a leading manufacturer of home computers. Yet the company leads the computer industry and is now a leader in other industries as well. Martin Luther King’s experiences were not unique, yet he inspired a nation to change. The Wright brothers were not the strongest contenders in the race to take the first manned, powered flight, but they led us into a new era of aviation and, in doing so, completely changed the world we live in.
Their goals were not different than anyone else’s, and their systems and processes were easily replicated. Yet the Wright brothers, Apple and Martin Luther King stand out among their peers. They stand apart from the norm and their impact is not easily copied. They are members of a very select group of leaders who do something very, very special. They inspire us.
Just about every person or organization needs to motivate others to act for some reason or another. Some want to motivate a purchase decision. Others are looking for support or a vote. Still others are keen to motivate the people around them to work harder or smarter or just follow the rules. The ability to motivate people is not, in itself, difficult. It is usually tied to some external factor. Tempting incentives or the threat of punishment will often elicit the behavior we desire. General Motors, for example, so successfully motivated people to buy their products that they sold more cars than any other automaker in the world for over seventy-seven years. Though they were leaders in their industry, they did not lead.
Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people—supporters, voters, customers, workers—who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.