Why in the World Do You Do That?

Why do you do what you do? Effective leaders can answer that question. And it’s their key to success. In a TED talk that’s been viewed almost 32 million times, leadership expert Simon Sinek uncovers what might be the world’s simplest idea.

The “golden circle,” as he calls it, consists of three circles, one inside another. In the outer circle is the word what, which describes what your company is selling. The middle circle is how, for information on your product’s details, and the innermost circle covers why, the crucial question of why you do what you do.

According to Sinek, great leaders start from the innermost circle and expand out from there. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he noted. For example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. drew 250,000 people to the mall in Washington, DC, in 1963 not because he had the “I have a plan” speech, but because he had the “I have a dream speech.” People showed up for civil rights because they believed what he believed.

All great leaders think, act, and communicate in this way, says Sinek, and it is the exact opposite of traditional marketing strategies, which begin by telling people “what” they have, then “how” their product is different, and finally “why” they should buy it.

Sinek says those who lead should inspire us. We follow them because we want to, not because we have to, he says. We follow them for ourselves, not for them. We follow because they lead with the why.

The goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. This extends to the hiring process, too, Sinek adds, because you want to gain employees who share the same beliefs, not just people who need a job.

Sinek explains why it’s important to attract those who believe what you believe. The innovators and early adopters who believe in a product comprise the first 15% of people who use the product. Once that tipping point is reached, the market is penetrated and others follow because they see and trust how the early adopters have used the product. And the rest…is success.

Check out Sinek’s TED here.