Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

by Simon Sinek

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Overview

 

The inspiring, life-changing bestseller by the author of LEADERS EAT LAST and TOGETHER IS BETTER.

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY -- the third most popular TED video of all time.
 
Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?
 
People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won't truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it. 
 
START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way -- and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101149034
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2009
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 13,169
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

SIMON SINEK, the bestselling author of LEADERS EAT LAST and TOGETHER IS BETTER, is an optimist who believes in a brighter future for humanity. He teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people and has presented his ideas around the world, from small startups to Fortune 50 corporations, from Hollywood to Congress to the Pentagon. His TED Talk based on START WITH WHY is the third most popular TED video of all time. Learn more about his work and how you can inspire those around you at StartWithWhy.com.

Read an Excerpt

1
ASSUME YOU KNOW
On a cold January day, a forty-three-year-old man was
sworn in as the chief executive of his country. By his side
stood his predecessor, a famous general who, fifteen years
earlier, had commanded his nation’s armed forces in a war
that resulted in the defeat of Germany. The young leader
was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. He spent the next
fi ve hours watching parades in his honor and stayed up
celebrating until three o’clock in the morning.
You know who I’m describing, right?

It’s January 30, 1933, and I’m describing Adolf Hitler and not,
as most people would assume, John F. Kennedy.
The point is, we make assumptions. We make assumptions
about the world around us based on sometimes incomplete or false
information. In this case, the information I offered was incomplete.
Many of you were convinced that I was describing John F. Kennedy
until I added one minor little detail: the date.

This is important because our behavior is affected by our assumptions
or our perceived truths. We make decisions based on
what we think we know. It wasn’t too long ago that the majority of
people believed the world was flat. This perceived truth impacted behavior.
During this period, there was very little exploration. People
feared that if they traveled too far they might fall off the edge
of the earth. So for the most part they stayed put. It wasn’t until
that minor detail was revealed—the world is round—that behaviors
changed on a massive scale. Upon this discovery, societies
began to traverse the planet. Trade routes were established; spices
were traded. New ideas, like mathematics, were shared between societies
which unleashed all kinds of innovations and advancements.
The correction of a simple false assumption moved the human race
forward.

Now consider how organizations are formed and how decisions
are made. Do we really know why some organizations succeed and
why others don’t, or do we just assume? No matter your defi nition
of success—hitting a target stock price, making a certain amount
of money, meeting a revenue or profi t goal, getting a big promotion,
starting your own company, feeding the poor, winning public
office—how we go about achieving our goals is very similar. Some
of us just wing it, but most of us try to at least gather some data so
we can make educated decisions. Sometimes this gathering process
is formal—like conducting polls or market research. And
sometimes it’s informal, like asking our friends and colleagues for
advice or looking back on our own personal experience to provide
some perspective. Regardless of the process or the goals, we all want
to make educated decisions. More importantly, we all want to make
the right decisions.

As we all know, however, not all decisions work out to be the
right ones, regardless of the amount of data we collect. Sometimes
the impact of those wrong decisions is minor, and sometimes it can
be catastrophic. Whatever the result, we make decisions based on a
perception of the world that may not, in fact, be completely accurate.
Just as so many were certain that I was describing John F.
Kennedy at the beginning of this section. You were certain you were
right. You might even have bet money on it—a behavior based on
an assumption. Certain, that is, until I offered that little detail of
the date.

Not only bad decisions are made on false assumptions. Sometimes
when things go right, we think we know why, but do we really?
That the result went the way you wanted does not mean you
can repeat it over and over. I have a friend who invests some of his
own money. Whenever he does well, it’s because of his brains and
ability to pick the right stocks, at least according to him. But when
he loses money, he always blames the market. I have no issue with
either line of logic, but either his success and failure hinge upon his
own prescience and blindness or they hinge upon good and bad
luck. But it can’t be both.

So how can we ensure that all our decisions will yield the best
results for reasons that are fully within our control? Logic dictates
that more information and data are key. And that’s exactly what
we do. We read books, attend conferences, listen to podcasts and
ask friends and colleagues—all with the purpose of finding out
more so we can figure out what to do or how to act. The problem
is, we’ve all been in situations in which we have all the data and get
lots of good advice but things still don’t go quite right. Or maybe
the impact lasted for only a short time, or something happened
that we could not foresee. A quick note to all of you who correctly
guessed Adolf Hitler at the beginning of the section: the details I
gave are the same for both Hitler and John F. Kennedy, it could have
been either. You have to be careful what you think you know. Assumptions,
you see, even when based on sound research, can lead
us astray.

Intuitively we understand this. We understand that even with
mountains of data and good advice, if things don’t go as expected,
it’s probably because we missed one, sometimes small but vital detail.
In these cases, we go back to all our sources, maybe seek out
some new ones, and try to figure out what to do, and the whole
process begins again. More data, however, doesn’t always help, especially
if a flawed assumption set the whole process in motion in
the fi rst place. There are other factors that must be considered, factors
that exist outside of our rational, analytical, informationhungry
brains.

There are times in which we had no data or we chose to ignore
the advice or information at hand and just went with our gut and
things worked out just fine, sometimes even better than expected.
This dance between gut and rational decision-making pretty much
covers how we conduct business and even live our lives. We can
continue to slice and dice all the options in every direction, but at
the end of all the good advice and all the compelling evidence, we’re
left where we started: how to explain or decide a course of action
that yields a desired effect that is repeatable. How can we have 20/20
foresight?

There is a wonderful story of a group of American car executives
who went to Japan to see a Japanese assembly line. At the
end of the line, the doors were put on the hinges, the same as in
America. But something was missing. In the United States, a line
worker would take a rubber mallet and tap the edges of the door to
ensure that it fit perfectly. In Japan, that job didn’t seem to exist.
Confused, the American auto executives asked at what point they
made sure the door fit perfectly. Their Japanese guide looked at
them and smiled sheepishly. “We make sure it fits when we design
it.” In the Japanese auto plant, they didn’t examine the problem
and accumulate data to figure out the best solution—they engineered
the outcome they wanted from the beginning. If they didn’t
achieve their desired outcome, they understood it was because of a
decision they made at the start of the process.

At the end of the day, the doors on the American-made and
Japanese-made cars appeared to fit when each rolled off the assembly
line. Except the Japanese didn’t need to employ someone to
hammer doors, nor did they need to buy any mallets. More importantly,
the Japanese doors are likely to last longer and maybe even
be more structurally sound in an accident. All this for no other
reason than they ensured the pieces fit from the start.

What the American automakers did with their rubber mallets is
a metaphor for how so many people and organizations lead. When
faced with a result that doesn’t go according to plan, a series of
perfectly effective short-term tactics are used until the desired out-
come is achieved. But how structurally sound are those solutions?
So many organizations function in a world of tangible goals and the
mallets to achieve them. The ones that achieve more, the ones that
get more out of fewer people and fewer resources, the ones with an
outsized amount of infl uence, however, build products and companies
and even recruit people that all fit based on the original
intention. Even though the outcome may look the same, great leaders
understand the value in the things we cannot see.

Every instruction we give, every course of action we set, every
result we desire, starts with the same thing: a decision. There are
those who decide to manipulate the door to fit to achieve the desired
result and there are those who start from somewhere very
different. Though both courses of action may yield similar shortterm
results, it is what we can’t see that makes long-term success
more predictable for only one. The one that understood why the
doors need to fit by design and not by default.

Customer Reviews

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Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
TomTex More than 1 year ago
I read at least 2-3 books a month. This was one of them. I regularly use Simon's Why, How and What to focus myself and my customers to organize and prioritize our thoughts and plans. Lots of people focus on what they do, fewer know how and the least know why. A meaningful why results in energy, focus, attracts capital and customers. Simon's examples and application ideas make this a great book.
BookClubDiva More than 1 year ago
I have definitely become a Simon Sinek evangelist. This book was insightful, well researched and inspiring. I feel like it put a whole new perspective on WHY companies do THAT they do. When I watch advertising now I say to myself “that’s manipulative” and “that aspirational” or “I understand WHY.” It has changed the way I advertise myself in social situations, my social media presence and how I conduct sales calls. As I was reading the book I kept having moments when I realized mistakes I made and how the WHY would have changed that. So I immediately implemented what I learned on my next sales call and I was astounded at the difference. The principles are not just for companies. I’ve seen my church grow three-fold in the last year and as I’m reading Simon’s book I realize it’s because they do an excellent job of communicating the WHY. I don’t think I could ever work for a company now who doesn’t clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. I’d recommend this book to everyone and have already started to buy multiples and give them out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the better "business" books I've read in a while. Yet, it is much more far reaching than a "business book." It works with the topic of a purpose driven companies and organizations in a very real and tangible way and manages to both challenge your thinking and inspire you. Definitely an easy read and worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I believe "why" is the most important queation an organization must answer. This book does a great introduction to "why" but failed to follow up with well researched examples. It is easy to point to something that failed and claim to have a better way. But there were no examples or studies of organizations successfully applying the golden circle with better results.
samuelsdaddy More than 1 year ago
This book touches on the most basic tool to success. Our reason for success. Socrates said a unexamined life is not worth living. A business that doesn't examine why they are in business will not stay in business long. Start with Why analyzes companies that have remembered "why" and helps you find yours. A must read for anyone that has lost some inspiration or are looking to create a mega phone for the future! Thank you Simon for writing this book... I'm so amped about my future megaphone!
gbautista72 4 months ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It reinforces the idea of the importance of knowing WHY. Why are we in business? Why are we doing this? Why should I follow you? What's the WHY? His message is simple and he gives several examples of successes from remembering the WHY. Simon Sinek is definitely and optimist, wanting to see the silver lining of every cloud and making it work, but you have to remember WHY? Also leaders with the WHY can inspire followers. Companies holding on to their WHY in culture and environment will prosper.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Start everything you do with WHY.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing read!!!!!
meghayden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Start with the title. You're done. The rest of the book simply gives examples of those companies that had vision and those that didn't. If you already believed the basic premise, there was little to gain. It didn't explain how to keep why paramount in your day to day work, how to find why if you are working in a job without a clear purpose, how to inspire others to share your vision.
GShuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book that delivers on its title. To inspire we need to change our focus from what or how we do things to why we do them. He claims that shift can streamline communications inside and outside a company and is what helps to make an emotional connection. Its not that you have never heard this kind of idea, however it is the way he presents and plays with this concept that that makes it worth reading.
ACP More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by my employer. I enjoyed the thought process and examples demonstrated in the book. There was some repetition of the information meaning the book could have been shorter. However, the concept of finding your Why and leading from that place is a good one. More companies need to find their Why or risk desentigrating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the first books I read as a business owner and it is phenomenal. It truly casts a vision for understanding the success or failure in any business or even in your every day life. I highly recommend this to anyone looking to cast a vision in any area of their life. I've seen many businesses fall under after having forgot why they initially began because they got lost in how to make money and what their results were. You will find many negative comments about anything on the internet, however I encourage you to think for yourself. When you buy someone's advice, you buy their lifestyle. As for myself, this is one of the books I plan to read once a year for the rest of my life.
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This was a gift for my son who thinks way too much about everything he does, so it was perfect.
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