I caught this video earlier this year and all I can say is that it has changed how I run projects and decide what to do. It’s by Simon Sinek on the subject of “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, after his book on the same thing (affiliate link.)

Simon basically says that great leaders don’t start with WHAT they start with WHY. I can identify with this on so many levels, the most pertinent being the work I do at The River Church in Exeter.

At our church, there are 101 things that we could do — ‘the whats’ — and most times, we’ve done things in the past because others were doing them and they seemed like good ideas. It’s not to say that we just did whatever came into our mind, but when you are running a church you are always looking for new ways to reach and help people, often on a tight budget, and when you see another church have success with a certain activity, you naturally want to emulate it. It’s not a surprise that many of things over the years have failed, probably the most memorable being when we went on TV for a year, which exhausted us and brought little gain in return.

Also, both in church and in my other ventures, there’s always the times when you’ve having a leadership discussion and you focus the whole meeting on a small part of ‘the whats’ while totally ignoring ‘the whys’. I guess the reason is that it’s easier to talk about a ‘what’ because it’s easier to change and more immediate to change.

What this video has helped me do is focus on ‘the whys’ first, and if there isn’t a satisfactory ‘why’, then to by no means look at ‘the whats’. Have you ever worked on a project without really knowing why? Have you found a task keeps changing because you don’t know the why? Have you found you do things without real purpose and direction? This video will help you as much as it’s helped me!

Your Leading Thoughts

  1. Be honest — where are you on this scale at the moment? What are your struggles and victories?
  2. What are you thoughts on the power of WHY? Are there times when you have harnessed it?
  3. If you have already seen this, how has it changed you?

Archived Comments

  • juliansummerhayes


    Thanks for sharing this; and clearly we both have a similar interest in the “Why”.

    For me, looking at it from a professional services viewpoint, the Why is simple and that is to serve our customers to the very best of our ability (see Tom Peters’ book Reimagine which deals with this very eloquently). Absent the customer there would be no business.

    The Why though needs to transcend a simple vision statement and focus on meaning, resonance and a powerful, almost life changing viewpoint. There are way too many mission statements or the like that are frankly meaningless. I have put up a post earlier today on Tumblr referring to Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” statement and we need something as powerful as that when thinking about the Why. Have a great day my friend.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Julian

    It’s a game changer I think. It really helps you focus tightly.

  • http://twitter.com/98rosjon Jonny Rose

    I suspect we all know that teams should be built from ‘like-minded’ people in the interests of cohesion but this video really hammered home the point.

    How has it changed me?

    My parents run a nursery and whilst my parents are committed to providing a place of excellence and quality, although the staff we hire display the same ethos and concerns. Our problem is that we hire staff who are *able* to do the job rather than *want* to do the job.

    In future a more pertinent question to ask in an interview would not be, “How are you qualified for this job?” which is the stock question, but instead: “*Why* do you want to work in childcare?”.

    Since we’re coming up to a period of hiring I’ll let you know how this new model goes! ;)

  • / Scott Gould

    Can’t wait to hear back from it, J Man.

    It certainly is a big change, really shifts the mind.

  • http://www.comrz.com Markus Karlsson

    This is a great video, thanks for bringing it to us.

  • / Scott Gould

    It’s such a good one isn’t it! Shifted my thinking on a lot of things