I agree with an ancient African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And there are situations — usually when a crisis occurs — when we must go as far as we can as quickly as we can. I am among those who are convinced that even great leaders cannot motivate others but they can inspire others to be self-motivated. Simon Sinek wrote this book to inspire those who read it. As he explains in previously published book Start with Why, he believes that people must have a purpose-driven life, whatever that worthy purpose may be.
All leaders have many responsibilities and one of them is to establish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. He also believes that leaders have an obligation to help others to find their purpose. Here is the vision Sinek imagines: “to build a world in which the vast majority of us wake up every single morning inspired to go to work, feel safe when we’re there and return home fulfilled at the end of the day.”
He discusses this vision in his TED Talk and, thus far, more than 28 million people have watched the video: "About three and a half years ago, I made a discovery. And this discovery profoundly changed my view on how I thought the world worked, and it even profoundly changed the way in which I operate in it. As it turns out, there's a pattern. As it turns out, all the great inspiring leaders and organizations in the world, whether it's Apple or Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers, they all think, act and communicate the exact same way. And it's the complete opposite to everyone else. All I did was codify it, and it's probably the world's simplest idea. I call it the golden circle.”
How important are visions? Consider this second excerpt from his TED Talk: “Dr. King believed that there are two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by men. And not until all the laws that are made by men are consistent with the laws made by the higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happened that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed, not for him, but for ourselves. By the way, he gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech.”
Here’s my take on some of Sinek’s most important points:
o Challenge what is worth attacking; defend what is worth protecting. o Visions are like plants: they need to be nourished. o Talk less and do more...and do it with others. o Ideas without purpose or impact evaporate. o No matter when and where we start, “All that matters is that we start.” o Chase dreams rather than competitors o If no one thinks your idea is crazy, re-evaluate it. o No plan ever goes according to plan. o Don’t complain about it. Replace it with something much better. o Members of bad teams are silos disguised as human beings. o People can’t work very well together unless they trust each other. o You don’t have to like associates but it helps. o Success excites; the process of achieving it fulfills. o Small failures usually pave the road to success…if you don’t give up en route. o You can convince minds but hearts have to be won.
Sinek claims it was a “joy” to write this book, with superb illustrations provided by Ethan Aldridge. It is certainly a joy to read as well inspiring. Some books nourish the soul and this is one of them. Sinek succeeds brilliantly in his attempt to “share a little inspiration in such a simple format.” He adds a concluding section, “A Little More,” in which he enriches the insights previously shared.
In my opinion, the great value of this book is that it provides a number of insights that either illuminate some dimension of humanity we have not previously considered or reminds of wisdom that, for whatever reasons, we have abandoned along the way during our own journey. The extent to which each reader is inspired by the book will be determined almost entirely by how receptive a reader is to wisdom shared. Hopefully, most of those who read this book will embrace the challenge with which Simon Sinek bids his farewell: “What good is an idea if it remains an idea? Try. Experiment. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”
Impossible? Not to worry. Margaret Mead has you covered: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.