Simon Sinek began his investigation of how leaders inspire action by exploring what makes leaders stand out. He examined the way they think, act, and communicate and came to the conclusion that effective leaders start with “why”. Sinek’s quote, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” explains how great leaders inspire others to take action. In his Ted Talk, Sinek uses his Golden Circle model to demonstrate his idea of how naturally occurring patterns of human decision making explains why we are inspired by some leaders and not others.


WHAT: The result
Every organization know what they do. Whether it’s a service they provide or a product they sell, “what” is the result/proof of “why”.
– Apple: We make computers.

HOW: The process
Still, most organizations know how they do what they do. Their process is the set of specific actions that make them competitive with and different from other organizations.
– Apple: Our products are visually attractive and user-friendly.

WHY: The purpose
Few organizations know why they do what they do. Beliefs, values, and motives make up the “why” and explain why the organization exists.
– Apple: We believe in challenging the status quo.

Sinek relates his Golden Circle to a human brain where the outer, neocortex part of the brain controls rational thought and the inner, limbic part of the brain controls emotion and decision making. Most organizations choose the conventional outside-in method starting with what. These organizations are typically ineffective when inspiring their audience. An example is Dell. You wouldn’t buy an MP3 player from Dell because Dell makes computers. Dell focuses on what they do more than anything which is why we only think of computers when it comes to their brand. Organizations who know how to influence their audience choose the inside-out method. They first start with their purpose, their beliefs and then describe how they will do what they aspire to do and what the end result will be. When organizations communicate from the inside-out they capture our emotions and are the ones who inspire us most.

In his Ted Talk, Sinek spoke about Martin Luther King and how there were millions of others who thought just like him. They all knew what they were doing but few knew how and why they were doing it. The reason MLK rose above the others was because he first saw a vision, then a process, then an outcome. MLK didn’t say, “I have a plan,” he said, “I have a dream,” and that made all the difference.

Simon Sinek changed the world’s understanding of how to inspire others and why it’s important. To become an effective leader it is crucial to start with why. Starting with why is the foundation of a leader’s ability to impact the world and inspire their followers. When you show why you’re doing what you’re doing others will be inspired and want to follow. People don’t care about what, everyone knows what they do. People buy WHY.

It took me some time to discover my “why” but after reflecting on my personal values, passions, and beliefs, and exploring my purpose/why I exist I was able to develop my own why statement; “Inspire others to choose optimism and promote positivity.” This statement serves as a compass, an explanation of why I exist, and fuel for inspiration.


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