Ted Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

I know I am stating an unpopular opinion in regards to this Ted Talk. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the talk and found Simon Sinek to be very inspirational; I just don’t agree with the premise of his talk.

In the Ted Talk, Simon introduced the Golden Circle. This circle consists of the What, How, And Why of a business. The What being what product they make; the how is how they make their product, and the why is why that company makes what it does. Simon says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He talks about why Apple Inc. is so successful. It is because they advertise, first, why they make their product, second, how they make it, and thirdly, what they make. This is in reverse from how most promote their products, which is why they are the leading company in the field. He believe that to be successful as a business or a successful leader, you must inspire people first by your “why” instead of your “what”.

In an ideal world, I believe this is true, but I also think this idea is conditional. Take the online company Ivory Ella. This company is based on the premise that the sales they make go to rescuing and saving elephants. In reality, only 10% of the proceeds go to the charity they base their advertising on. This is personally why I won’t support this brand. When I’ve told my friends this fact, most of them responded, “Who cares, they make cute clothes.” This proves my point, that people buy your what just as much as they buy your why. I believe the idea of someone’s why makes it easier for people to make decisions; they can feel better about what it is they are doing. Even Nike is this way. People say they buy Nike for the quality and the effects of the branding and clothing, but it is just as much because it’s a name brand. You can’t have the why without the how and what, and I really would question anyone that says they only buy for the why.

Regardless of my opinion, I will give Simon Sinek props for the Ted Talk, because it was very inspirational. He has a great way of making you want to believe what he believes solely on his ability to affect an audience and inspire others. In regards to leadership, I can definitely see the connection to why we do the things we do and it being an incentive for others. I also think it is important to know your why as leader, so when others look to you for guidance, you know the what, the how, and the why.