How Great Leaders Inspire Action: Quotes from Start With Why by Simon Sinek

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This is one of the world’s greatest questions: how do we actually convince or inspire people?

Psychologists, philosophers, and even scientists have their own answers –though, for such a broad question, we might be needing a more general, and even primal solution. We need to have an idea how the mind works beyond its rational realm.

Good thing, in Simon Sinek’s book called Start With Why, he highlighted lessons focusing on this topic, and even discussed that the keys to inspiring people are actually relative to the biological evolution of the human brain.

To illustrate this more clearly, here are some quotes from the book which can give us an idea of the bigger picture –his useful insights from the stories of some of the world's most successful people and companies:



"There are leaders, and there are those who lead."


"Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained."


"For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives."


"The danger of manipulations is that they work. And because manipulations work, they have become the norm, practiced by the vast majority of companies and organizations, regardless of size or industry."


"Apple, unlike its competitors, has defined itself by WHY it does things, not WHAT it does."


"As any company forced to compete on price, quality, service or features alone can attest, it is very hard to differentiate for any period of time or build loyalty on those factors alone."


"But only companies that act like commodities are the ones who wake up every day with the challenge of how to differentiate. Companies and organizations with a clear sense of WHY never worry about it."


"Knowing your WHY is not the only way to be successful, but it is the only way to maintain a lasting success and have a greater blend of innovation and flexibility. When a why goes fuzzy, it becomes much more difficult to maintain the growth, loyalty and inspiration that helped drive the original success."


"Fan clubs, started by customers, are often formed without any help from the company itself. These people form communities, in person or online, not just to share their love of a product with others, but to be in the company of people like them. Their decisions have nothing to do with the company or its products; they have everything to do with the individuals themselves."




"Our natural need to belong also makes us good at spotting things that don’t belong. It’s a sense we get. A feeling. Something deep inside us, something we can’t put into words, allows us to feel how some things fit and some things just don’t."


"We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe."


"When a decision feels right, we have a hard time explaining why we did what we did. Again, the part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn’t control language, so we rationalize."


"When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of the brain, they almost invariably end up “overthinking.” These rational decisions tend to take longer to make, says Restak, and can often be of lower quality."


"Great leaders are those who trust their gut. They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY."


"If we were all rational, there would be no small businesses, there would be no exploration, there would be very little innovation and there would be no great leaders to inspire all those things."


"Nature abhors a vacuum. In order to promote life, Mother Nature attempts to find balance whenever possible."




"When our decisions feel right, we’re willing to pay a premium or suffer an inconvenience for those products or services. This has nothing to do with price or quality."


"Without WHY, the buyer is easily motivated by aspiration or fear. At that point, it is the buyer who is at greatest risk of ending up being inauthentic."


"The human animal is a social animal. We’re very good at sensing subtleties in behavior and judging people accordingly."


"Trust does not emerge simply because a seller makes a rational case why the customer should buy a product or service, or because and executive promises change. Trust is not a checklist."


"Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain."


"With trust comes a sense of value –real value, not just value equated with money. Value, by definition, is the transference of trust. You can’t convince someone you have value, just as you can’t convince someone to trust you."


"Leading is not the same as being a leader. Being the leader means you hold the highest rank, either by earning it, having good fortune or navigating internal politics. Leading, however, means that others willingly follow you –not because they have to, not because they are paid to, but because they want to."




"The reason the human race has been so successful is not because we’re the strongest animals –far from it. Size and might alone do not guarantee success. We’ve succeeded as a species because of our ability to form cultures."


"When you fill an organization with good fits, those who believe what you believe, success just happens."


"The truth is, almost every person on the planet is passionate, we are just not all passionate for the same things."


"The goal of business then should not be to simply sell to anyone who wants what you have –the majority –but rather to find people who believe what you believe…"


"Absent a WHY, new ideas and technologies quickly find themselves playing the price-and-feature game –a sure sign of an absence of WHY and a slide into commodity status. It is not the technology that failed, it was how the companies tried to sell it."


"Energy motivates but charisma inspires. Energy is easy to see, easy to measure and easy to copy. Charisma is hard to define, near impossible to measure and too elusive to copy. All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves."


"Loyalty to a company trumps pay and benefits. And unless you’re an astronaut, it’s not the work we do that inspires us either. It’s the cause we come to work for."




"The pessimists are usually right, to paraphrase Thomas Freidman, author of The World is Flat, but it’s the optimists who change the world."


"Gates is a WHY-type. So were the Wright brothers. And Steve Jobs. And Herb Kelleher. But they didn’t do it alone. They couldn’t. They needed those who knew HOW."


"To reach the billion-dollar status, to alter the course of an industry, requires a very special and rare partnership between one who knows WHY and those who know HOW."


"That’s because success and achievement are not the same thing, yet too often we mistake one for the other. Achievement is something you reach or attain, like a goal. It is something tangible, clearly defined and measurable. Success, in contrast, is a feeling or a state of being."


"The reason so many small businesses fail, however, is because passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive, it needs structure. A WHY without the HOWs, passion without structure, has a very high probability of failure."


"With a company so beloved by employees, customers and communities, Walton made only one major blunder. He didn’t put his cause into clear enough words so that others could continue to lead the cause after he died. It’s not entirely his fault. The part of the brain that controls the WHY doesn’t control language."


"If you follow your why, then others will follow you."


"When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you."




What are your favorite quotes from Start With Why?

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