Simple yet powerful, Simon Sinek’s Start With Why is as much a lesson in ethical leadership as it is an advertising manual every young copywriter should pick up. By dissecting Sinek’s theory of The Golden Circle through anecdotes of some of America’s most notable leaders of innovation and commerce—Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Bill Gates, Orville and Wilbur Wright—Sinek explains the critical need to always ask ourselves WHY. It is this sense of purpose, or cause, that drives consumer behavior and allows great leaders to inspire action.
Here are the 10 key insights from the book.
The path to loyal, repeat customers is not through manipulation—no matter what the rest of America is doing.
There are many forms of manipulation used to influence human behavior: fear, peer pressure, aspiration, novelty, price, promotions. They are all “carrots and sticks” that have become common practices in American business. But they come at a high cost to the company and the customer. You cannot build a loyal customer base by manipulating people.
People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.
The Golden Circle—WHY, HOW, WHAT—explains how values are injected into purchasing decisions and human behavior. Be it buying Ho Hos over Snowballs or starting a civil rights movement, the reason always starts with WHY.
Fuel the human desire to belong to influence purchasing decisions.
Everybody wants to fit in. It’s at the core of human nature. This urge to belong is so strong that it causes us to act irrationally. Usually the companies with the greatest loyalty don’t have the fastest service, best quality products, or the greatest price. But these companies give people a way to show the world who they are and what they believe in.
The order of The Golden Circle matters.
The only way others know what you believe is from the things you say and do. And it takes consistency to relieve them of any doubt. But if you don’t know WHY, you can’t know HOW. As with dating, many companies work extremely hard to prove their value to the customer, but fail to reveal their deeper sense of purpose; it is unlikely a loyal relationship will ensue.
Trust is not a checklist.
People motivated by a cause—the WHY—guarantee a higher chance of success than people that might have more qualified skills. Great organizations become great because of the people inside of it. If there is a strong, inspired sense of culture, those in the organization feel protected and safe because they belong.
If you can get it in the hands of early adopters, the majority of the population will follow.
A personal, trusted recommendation has the capacity to trump facts, rational thinking, and Nike-sized advertising budgets. Naturally, we are more inclined to trust those who share our beliefs and values. The hard part is finding enough influencers to get your word around. If you reach enough influencers, it can mean the difference between a fad and an idea that changes society forever.
Find a partner. Those who know WHY need those who know HOW and vice versa.
If viewed from the top-down, like a cone, The Golden Circle can also be used as a tool for structuring the internal framework of an organization. The head-honcho (CEO) sitting at the top of the cone is the visionary – representing the WHY. Below are senior executives who know how to bring the CEO’s vision to fruition—the HOW. Most of the action happens at the bottom of the cone, in the WHAT, where employees create tangible results.
A logo becomes a symbol because of its purpose.
As a company grows, part of the CEO’s job is to personify the purpose of the organization. The CEO shouldn’t focus on the outside market, but on internal inspiration. The logo ought to symbolize the reason employees walk through the door every morning. When customer and company become one and the same, a logo has become a symbol.
Once the flame of passion dies, the company dies. A company’s leaders must hold the same beliefs as its founder.
When a company loses clarity of its WHY, things start to deteriorate. The founder’s WHY must be well-integrated into the company’s culture for it to continue to thrive after the founder’s departure.
Pay it forward.
While looking back on his own feeling of hollowness, Sinek codified why some marketing worked and others didn’t. The result was The Golden Circle. He found the essential need for purpose – what he was missing in his own work – and how it must be organized within an organization to have a lasting influence. Start With Why sets out to share this message and inspire others.