This book summary series is taken from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2011). Your curiosity and knowledge are infinite, but your time is not. Read this summary – and you’ll be inspired!
“The power of WHY is not opinion, it’s biology”
Sinek pointed that “our need to belong is not rational, but it is a constant that exists across all people in all cultures.” It is a feeling we get when those around us share our values and beliefs. When we feel like we belong we feel connected and we feel safe. As humans we crave the feeling and we seek it out. No matter where we go, we trust those with whom we are able to perceive common values or beliefs. In the same way, we want to be around people and companies who are like us and share our beliefs. “When a company clearly communicates their WHY and we believe what they believe, then we will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to include those products or brands in our lives.” This is not because they are better, but because markers or symbols of the values and beliefs we hold dear. Simon believes that we are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe.
Part of communicating what leaders value and believe is in how they make decisions. When good leaders thought that a certain decision feels right, they have a hard time explaining why they did what they did. Decision-making and the ability to explain those decisions exist in different parts of the brain. This is the famous gut decision, and it happens in the limbic brain. The reason gut decisions feel right is because the limbic brain also controls our feelings. This limbic brain is smart and often knows the right thing to do. It is our inability to verbalize the reasons that may cause us to doubt ourselves or trust the empirical evidence when our gut tells us not to.
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” This is the genius of great leadership. Great leaders and organizations are good at seeing what most of us can’t see. They are good at giving us things we should never think of asking for. In summary, Sinek writes, “Great leaders are those who trust their guts. They are those who understand the art before science, they win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY.” Products with a clear sense of WHY give people a way to tell the outside world who they are and what they believe (think of Apple Inc. and their loyal customers). If a company does not have a clear sense of WHY then it is impossible for the outside world to perceive anything more than WHAT the company does. And when that happens, manipulations that rely on price, features, service or quality became the primary currency of differentiation.
The Power of WHY is Not Opinion, It’s Biology