Start With Why

Simon Sinek quote: "The role of a reader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen."
Virgin.com
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 13 April 2021

Simon Sinek has an amazing way with words, and a voice we should all listen to. I picked one of his earliest books, Start With Why, for my Literati book club this month as it’s one of the few business books that I truly enjoyed.

Simon’s understanding that it doesn’t matter what you do, but why you do it is such an important lesson in life. It gives us more meaning, more motivation and it helps us stay on the right path. I also think it’s critical to running a business and being a good leader. As Simon writes: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you don’t understand why you’re doing something and if you’re not passionate about it, it’s harder to create something unique and something that adds value to people’s lives.

Sam Branson
Sam Branson

I’ve always wanted to create businesses that solve problems and improve people’s lives. At Virgin, we’re always asking ourselves why we do what we do. This practice has helped us to stay true to our core purpose of changing business for good. It also helps to keep our work fun, original and disruptive.  

One of Simon’s ideas that I admire the most is his Golden Circle Theory. This concept asks companies to start with ‘why’ before moving onto the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. By starting with your ‘why’ and your purpose, you’ll build a solid and authentic foundation for your brand while instilling trust and influencing people’s choices through inspiration. As Simon explores in the book, a good leader and a good business should only ever influence people through inspiration, not manipulation.

Young Richard Branson at the Student Magazine office
Image from Virgin.com

Inspiring people shouldn’t start and stop with your customers though. One of the most important things you need to do as a leader is create a culture at work where people can be themselves and where all ideas are welcome. As Simon puts it:

“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”

This also comes back to your ‘why’. It’s difficult to inspire people to work for you, if you don’t know why you’re doing it in the first place!

Reading Start With Why again reminded me why it’s so important to keep our values at the heart of everything we do at Virgin, and everything I do outside of work too. I would recommend it to business leaders all over the world, and to anyone looking for a little bit of direction or inspiration in life.