Four reasons why you always start with WHY, from Simon Sinek

This writing is for people who want to be a leader. Whether you are starting your own business or helping other with their businesses, you definitely want to lead. Because, by being great leaders you will win (i.e., able to influence more people, having loyal followers, gain more profits, and sustaining all of those benefits in a long-term).

How to be great leaders that inspire people? According to Simon Sinek, you have to use this Golden Circle and start thinking, acting, and communicating from the inside out; starting with the WHY.

The Golden Circle.  Illustration:

Please grasp this circle and it’s definition of each circle before moving forward.

WHAT is what you do (e.g., a computer, social cause, restaurant, apps)
HOW is how you do it differently and better than competitors.
WHY is why you do WHAT you do. WHY is a purpose, a belief. Making profit is not a good why.

Most businesses think, act and communicate starting with the WHAT. But Sinek’s argued that great company and leaders always start with the WHY.

These are four reasons why you have to start with WHY:

1. It will be different 

If Apple is just a regular company, they communication might sounded like this:

We are Apple
WHAT: We make great computers
HOW: These great machines are beautiful and user-friendly
WHY: Wanna buy one?

Instead, this is how Apple communicate:

We are Apple
WHY: Everything we do, is to challenge the status quo. And we believe in think differently.
HOW: And to achieve that, we will build a computer that is beautiful and is easy to use.
WHAT: We happen to make a great computer.

2. WHY will inspire people. Individuals who are inspired will follow you because they want to, not because they have to.

There is a reason why Martin Luther King, Jr. speech titled, “I have a dream” and not “I have a plan.” Because by sharing on what he believed in, he invites people who have the same beliefs to rally to the civil rights march in Washington in 1963. At that time, 250.000 people attend from all across America to Washington, not because of him; they come for themselves, for what they believed.

3. With WHY, the behavior will feel right. Because, biology! – The Limbic vs. The Neo Cortex

Our brain consists of two parts, limbic and neocortex (actually three with reptilian, but it’s not important now). The neocortex is responsible for rational and analytical thought. This section of the brain will respond to the WHAT. While limbic responsible with feelings such as trust, and this part of the brain will respond to the WHY and HOW.

Limbic is associated with behavior and decision making, and it cannot process language, but it is as real as this word and sentences. Limbic (feeling) is the reason why we as human have gut feelings. When we do something, that something, can sometimes feel right or wrong. That feeling is irrational, but it comes from the core human needs to belong. Human will feel safe when they are surrounded by others who share the same values and beliefs. Thus, when they have to make a decision to change their behavior, they will first ask their heart, does this feels right?

We are governed by feelings often times. And no, your heart can’t think. It’s limbic.

4. People do not buy what you do; they buy why you do it

How faith and feelings lead our daily behavior might be seen in an example on how early fanboys willing to queue for the first generation of product, which usually isn’t great yet and expensive. When people already accept and agree to a cause, the products (WHAT) will serve as a tangible proof of that belief. Ergo, you will have the loyalist on your side, if you can communicate the WHY clearly.

To understand the last section, reading writings on the “Law of Diffusion of Innovation” and “Manipulate vs. Inspire” will be helpful. The first article will explain different types of costumers and why businesses need to target early adopters, while the later will explain different ways to get people “queuing” for your products.

If you want to know more, get the book or watch his TED talk below.



Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York: Portfolio.


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