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

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Inspired by Simon Sinek’s popular Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, Start With Why teaches us how great organizations communicate, lead, and acquire loyal customers. Sinek argues that great leaders and organizations focus on WHY they do what they do, instead of WHAT they do and HOW they do it. Admittedly, I think you can watch the Ted Talk and get 90% of the value that the book offers, but the book does include a few stories that help cement the key insights.

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Key Takeaways

Leaders inspire people to act

If you want to influence people’s behavior, you can either manipulate it or inspire it. Manipulation may work in the short-term, but it’s a losing strategy in the long run. Great leaders don’t demand that people do things. They inspire them to care about something. That inspiration will motivate them to do great work.

Communicate your WHY

Most companies talk about what they do and how they do it. Instead, they should focus on why they’re doing what they’re doing. What is the purpose or cause? Why is it important? Why should others care? These are the questions that need to be answered and communicated to inspire people.
People buy the “why” behind your product, not the “what.”

The need to belong

“We do better in places that reflect our own values and beliefs.”

People across all cultures want to feel like they belong. They want to be around others with shared beliefs, attitudes, and values. If someone doesn’t feel like they belong to your organization, they won’t be doing their best work. They won’t feel that sense of being a part of a group that drives us to do better and be happier with what we’re doing.

Values and guiding principles need to be verbs

“For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.” Articulating our values as verbs gives us a clear idea . . . we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation. We can hold each other accountable to measure them or even build incentives around them.”


“When our decisions feel right, we’re willing to pay a premium or suffer an inconvenience for those products or services. This has nothing to do with price or quality. Price, quality, features and service are important, but they are the cost of entry in business today. It is those visceral limbic feelings that create loyalty.”

Loyalty is not built from features; it’s built from a connection to the mission of a product.

Why, What, and How

  • Why: A belief
  • How: Actions we take to realize that belief
  • What: Results of those actions


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

Hire motivated people. Then, inspire them with the mission of your company, the future that you’re trying to build. If you hire talented people who are not motivated, you’ll spend a lot of energy and time struggling to motivate them.

Be charismatic

“Energy motivates but charisma inspires. Energy is easy to see, easy to measure and easy to copy. Charisma is hard to define, near impossible to measure and too elusive to copy. All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.”

You can replicate energy. You can’t replicate charisma. Great leaders find their unique way of being charismatic, and the effect is inspiring.

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