If you haven’t heard of Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” by now, you’ve been living under a rock as a leader. He introduced it back in 2009 with the release of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and his TEDx talk has since been watched 37.5 million times! By drawing attention to the central importance of “why,” he’s won over the hearts of leaders worldwide. But, there’s a secret in Sinek’s Golden Circle that leadership easily overlooks.
So, what’s Sinek’s Golden Circle? Essentially, there are three concentric circles that organizations need to get clear: “what” is the outer ring, “how” is just inside, and “why” is the bullseye. He argues that most companies can rattle off a description of their product or service (“what” they do). They can even express the way they’re unique from other similar businesses (“how” they do it). But, as Sinek hits hard, if an organization really wants to thrive, everyone involved must be crystal clear and sold on its core purpose (“why” they do it).
For nearly a decade, adopting Sinek’s “start with why” perspective and principles has transformed scores of corporate executives, small business owners, nonprofit directors, church pastors, and their organizations, from the inside-out. Great leaders agree with Sinek—engagement and performance skyrockets when people get motivated by mission. It’s true!
No organization wins when its primary “why” is unclear or unknown.Click To Tweet
To achieve the best competitive advantage, leadership must consistently clarify “why,” refine “how,” and target “what.” Of course, this hard work often leads to countless hours of strategic off-sites, revisions of guiding documents, adjusting of corporate messaging, and rollouts of updated performance plans. But it’s worth it, right? Absolutely! Unless leaders behind closed doors ignore the not-so-hidden secret to Sinek’s Golden Circle. If you don’t honor “who,” starting with “why” becomes a strategic miss.
The secret to Sinek’s Golden Circle is simple: “why, what, and how” falls through if you don’t honor “who.” The galvanizing factor of every organization is the people it serves and the way it cares for them. “Who” is what holds the rings of a company’s Golden Circle together. It’s humans that ultimately clarify “why,” refine “how,” and target “what.” When leaders focus on organizational clarity without honoring the people that make up its community and culture, their best laid plans miss the mark.
Peter Drucker is famous in leadership circles for saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” When it comes to Sinek’s Golden Circle, no one wants the core of their organization getting gobbled up by people’s bad behaviors. To keep this from happening, leaders must take their responsibility as role models seriously. When they go out of their way to honor “who,” not just figure out “why, how, and what,” they create a healthy relational environment that ensures the mission stays on target.
Stay on Target Together
As you think about your leadership team and organization, whether you’re in the for-profit or nonprofit sector, how are you doing at honoring “who” in your setting? Take time to tackle the questions below on your own and as a group. Don’t just “start with why,” leverage the secret to Sinek’s Golden Circle and get ready to soar together.
- How confident are you that people in your organization can communicate your “Golden Circle” (why, how, and what you do together) in a clear and compelling way? Explain.
- Would most people in your organization describe its Sr. Leadership as “behind closed doors” or “shoulder-to-shoulder in the trenches” and why? How does this honor or dishonor your community and culture?
- What is one way your organization seeks to honor everyone involved and how will you take a step to build on that in the future?