Readers' Review 3: Start with Why by Simon Sinek
“Start with Why”: Mantra for Individual and Organisational Success
Have you ever wondered why some individuals and organisations succeed immensely and achieve a phenomenal prowess to influence as compared to their contemporaries or competitors? Do you wish to decode the key ingredient of their successful recipe? Then, savour this book to find the right answers.
Do you wish to unravel the nuances of leadership and communication styles of people and organisations that have created an indelible imprint in this world? If yes, you must peruse the self-help book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek, a British-American author, inspirational speaker, and eternal optimist.
The book was first published in 2009 and reprinted in 2011 (publisher: Portfolio Penguin).
Premise and Summary: The book argues that professionals and organisations that have made their mark and created a niche for themselves in their respective domains are guided by a common principle: they all started with ‘why’! It was a core concept they followed in running their lives and businesses. The book is replete with stimulating stories of such individuals and organisations that made this concept a governing principle of their lives. To illustrate this during the Civil Rights movement in America, there were many charismatic leaders in America, but Martin Luther King Jr. stood out. Similarly, there were many players in the market when Wozniak and his friend Steve Jobs tried to revolutionise the personal computer by designing Apple I. However, the duo emerged triumphant. It was the innate ability of these individuals to ‘start with ‘why’ that got them an edge over their peers, propelled them to inspire those around them, and achieve spectacular success.
The highlight of the book is a powerful notion called “The Golden Circle’’, which sheds light on how great leaders “think, act, and communicate”. The visual representation of this idea consists of three concentric circles- ‘why’ at the core, followed by ‘how’, and the final outer circle is labelled ‘what’.
Sinek asserts that when you start with WHY, you articulate your company’s/organisation’s message from the inside out. He contends that unfortunately many organisations/leaders focus on ‘what’ (what you do) and ‘how’ (your USP-unique selling proposition) but utterly fail at implementing the most important element of the model-‘why’ – why you do and what you do. And this is what differentiates influential leaders/companies from their competitors.
The crux of the book is to lead with ‘why’ if you want to engage, uplift people, or create goodwill among customers.
Uniqueness: The book highlights the manifold benefits of starting with ‘why’ by drawing on a wide range of captivating true-life stories. Though hard, embarking on an enterprise with ‘why’ is beneficial as it involves introspection, clarity, and vision, reveals Sinek. He also elucidates the difference between terms like ‘manipulation’ and ‘inspiration’ and exhorts us to focus on inspiration to create repeat customers/followers as manipulation generates a shorter impact and it works at a superficial level. The book enlightens us on how to inspire, challenge, and motivate a team, how to build trust in a team, and so on. It also unravels the ‘celery test’-a tool for making better decisions, which has been tried and tested by the writer. The lucid style of the writer sustains the interest of the reader till the end. Another noteworthy feature is that Sinek bases his theories on science and not just on his opinions.
Apparently, it seems to be a leadership book. But when we delve deeper, we realise that it also provides amazing insights into communication skills ranging from the personal to the professional level. Our communication will be clearer; more focused and more impressive if we pay heed to ‘why’ we are doing something. It could be writing professional e-mails, giving speeches, making presentations, convening meetings, and so on. On the personal front, starting with ‘why’ would lead to forging more enduring relationships.
One of the drawbacks of the book is the repetitive use of the Apple example to prove his points. Though the success of Apple is exemplary and inspiring, small and local businesses/businessmen may not be able to relate to it. The book revolves around one main idea and Sinek could have made the book more concise. Nevertheless, the objective of the book remains clear throughout- he walks the talk: his WHY is clear. Also, I think the book is more elaborate than the writer’s acclaimed TED Talk on the said subject.
This book is for anyone who wishes to communicate & connect better, wants to inspire others and/or to be inspired. It is also for professionals who wish to do their work with purpose-driven passion. Reading the book “can lead you to levels of excellence you never consider attainable’’- General Chuck Horner, air boss, Operation Desert Storm.
So act quickly, read, transform and inspire!
Dr Shraddha Joshi has a doctorate in English from Symbiosis International (Deemed) University, Pune. With more than fifteen years of teaching experience, she has taught English and Communication Skills to Corporates, Indian as well as International Students. Dr Joshi has an affinity for Soft Skills and is a certified Corporate and Soft Skills Trainer. As an ESL/EFL (English as a Second/Foreign Language) trainer, she has published and presented papers at various National and International Conferences and has also conducted workshops for teachers and students on diverse topics. Her other areas of interest are English Literature and Women Studies.