How Great Leaders Inspire Action (an insight by Simon Sinek)

We featured this excellent TED Talk video from Simon Sinek in the first issue of the Horticulture – Next Generation Newsletter. This video explores a simple model for improving your leadership. It is well worth watching and includes great insight so I would like to expand on this idea.

As an introduction, Simon asks why certain companies – Apple, and certain people – Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers – have achieved so much even if they’re just like anyone else. That’s actually a good question and in the course of the video this question is answered.

Simon says, 3 years ago he discovered a way of thinking that gave him a different perspective on how the world works and how he should operate on it. He says that this discovery revealed to him the secret as to why Apple, Martin Luther King or the Wright Brothers have gotten to where they are. He calls his new thinking – “The Golden Circle.”

What is the Golden Circle?

The Golden Circle is a diagram of 3 circles – the inner most circle is labeled as WHY, the inner circle as the HOW and the outer circle as the WHAT.

The WHAT pertains to every company’s objective, the HOW refers to the resources, the process to achieve the objective and the WHY talks about your company’s purpose, why your company exists – not profit, since profit is a result not a purpose.

Using the Golden Circle diagram, Simon explains that the answer to his question is simple. Apple, Martin Luther King, the Wright Brothers and other achievers in this world operate the same way, opposite how the world usually operates – they operate inside-out.

Majority of the people and organisations in this world operate by stating WHAT they sell or do, HOW they come up with it with not so much of a WHY. For example, if Apple communicates just like everybody else, a marketing message from them would sound like this:

We make great computers. They’re beautifully-designed, simple to use and user-friendly. Want to buy one?

This is the common approach to marketing but it usually doesn’t get the right response from those who receive the message because it’s uninspiring.

Now, by reversing the order of information, Simon says that we can achieve better response. To illustrate this, Simon uses Apple again as an example. He says Apple communicates to their consumers in this way:

Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully-designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers, want to buy one?

By giving emphasis to WHY they do what they do, WHY they sell what they sell, Apple inspires people to buy their products, to make an action based on their message.

What this proves to us is that people don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it. This is the way of thinking that inspired people, great leaders and great organisations use, regardless of their size and industry to achieve their objectives. People who believe take a leader’s cause and make it their own.

And so, I have to conclude with Simon’s words – “the goal is not to do business with anybody who needs what you have. But to do business with people who believe what you believe. Because when you talk about what you believe, you will attract those that believe in what you believe and therefore, inspire action.”

Russell Cummings is a career consultant having spent the last 25 years working as a Strategy and Business Development Facilitator to a wide cross-section of businesses and industries. For more information on Russell, visit

Search this website