Why Leadership Starts with “Why!”

By Shlomo Maital


  There is an important ‘follow up’ to my previous blog on Simon Sinek’s ‘start with why’ tool.  It relates to leadership.

   What makes a leader great?   Charisma?  Eloquence?  None of the above. 

   Great leaders, like Martin Luther King, notes Sinek,  provide their followers with a rationale, an answer to the question, why?    Why is racial discrimination unjust and not to be tolerated? Martin Luther  King gave the answer, in a clear, simple, concrete and visual manner.   Why should America put a man on the moon by the end of the ‘60s?  Because America loves huge challenges and does best when tackling them.  Kennedy supplied the ‘why’, in 1962. 

    The primary task of a leader, any leader, whether it be President, Prime Minister, CEO, or the head of a business unit, or the head of a project team, is simple and clear.  Supply the ‘why’.  Why are we doing this? Why should we invest all our sweat, blood, brains, creativity and effort?   If you provide a powerful convincing and authentic ‘why’, they will executive.  If you don’t, they won’t.   Whether you lead the 2 million workers of Wal-Mart, or five people in your team, it is the same.  Start with why. Make sure you all have the same ‘why’.  Make sure you have one. 

    The top person supplies the ‘why’.  The people under him or her supply the ‘how’ – they are the operations people.   And the people who work for the operations managers create the ‘what’.  This is about all the hierarchy an organization should have.  More than that is bureaucratic.  Three levels, with each level knowing what its goal is.  But the key is,  ALL levels need to be reminded constantly about the ‘why’.  That is why you, as leader, exist.  If you fail in that, you will not succeed in other endeavours, nor will your organization endure. 

  • Simon Sinek, START WITH WHY.  How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Portfolio/Penguin, new edition 2011.