Simon Sinek is a well known name for people interested in the topic of leading. His youtube videos feel very inspirational and are visited by millions. Recently, I came across his book “Start with why” and thought it is a great opportunity for a review.
Structure and content
The book I am reviewing here is the audiobook version. It is separated in around in ten parts which are separated in two to three chapters. Part 1 and 2 are the opening credits and the introduction. In part 3 he gives the anecdote how the Wright Brothers beat a mathematical professor though he was financed by the US government. Examples of inspiring leadership – mainly Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King – are discussed in chapter 4.
Then, Mr. Sinek introduces how most leadership is rather a form of manipulation than a inner drive in part 5 and introduces a concept model named “the golden circle” in part 6 which shows that the inner motor is ingited by the question “Why?”. Part 7 is about the necessity of coworkers and customers to join you in the cause of your action.
The how-to for achieving the needed trust is given in part 8. The topic of part 9 is the sustainment of the whys while the company grows in magnitude. Finally in the last part, the foundations of different whys in history are given to show what can cause a meaning and goal.
The good things
Mr. Sinek describes in a very easy model the missing link between the inner drive of a company and the outer resonance it receives. And it is true: Most companies lose at some point their motivational drive because the track of their intenional founding is lost when their success is inflating. Newcomers often dilute the intention of a company and business tools like aiming for certain KPI factors destroy business cultures. His theory as a whole makes a lot of sense and, personally, I am triggered too watch more for my personal whys in life.
Mr. Sinek’s argumentation is very clear and straight forward and you can use it for more than the CEO situation. You can introduce the meaning of a work as a subculture on team level and try to breath in life into an otherwise endothermic system that otherwise might not run on its own. I consider the golden circle theory as a good addition to the leadership skill. Also, the question is really something that we are asking us not often enough: “Why am I doing what I am doing?” If the answer is just to earn money, your work has lost its meaning and most likely its drive.
Also, Mr. Sinek has a very smooth voice and a quite appealing way of intoning his sentences. It is much fun to listen to him and I think this is one of the reasons his work is received so well throughout other media channels.
The bad things
What I do not like too much about the book is that it is close – very, very close – I would even say it is identical to his stand-up seminars. Underneath you can find a video with Mr. Sinek describing business communication at the golden ciricle. Everything he says is matching around 90% to the text of his book. I personally think that this is in a way annoying: I bought an book that has barely any benefit to the comprehensed material that he put onto platforms like Youtube.
Personally, I think that Mr. Sinek is right but not in all terms. He likes to aim at business level but his model and mindset does not apply to all types of businesses. Especially business to business (b2b) companies do not care about the why you do things. They just count price within a certain quality frame. That is why most companies have a separated purchase unit to take care of the lowest price but even in a competing environment your why does not matter then. Numbers count for getting orders. If you are the cheapest, you will get them. Yes, if you are not the cheapest but might have an edge due to robustness of your products, you might get a win here and there but this is nothing to carry on for long.
The only persons who will feel your why-mindset are endconsumers. Your mindset will polarize them and they will pay to be part of a culture or vibe that your company stands for. Thus, the person impersonating the inner motivation of the company always has to be its head – the CEO or the equivalent board directors. If the mindset is not set from the very top down to the personnel at the very bottom, you have already lost.
Communacting your why for existence is crucial to stand out. And this is far more than your fancy internal marketing that shows that you are the best – though most likely you are not. It is for the everyday’s work and the overall working spirit that your employees should work for, not the money.
I rate the book 3 out of 5. It has a great benefit for people that serve directly end consumers and is directed at CEOs or freelancers that need to think about their intentions to run a company. The book is not bad nore particually good. It makes you think in an enjoyable way.