Define your ‘why’: Simon Sinek’s model for inspirational leadership

The insights of motivational speaker Simon Sinek left our co-founder Kate Pollard inspired to define what drives her, fulfills her, and gives her purpose. You can too.

Sometimes you find inspiration outside your usual resources or network. 

I had a ticket for a leadership forum by British author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek. He’s described as “a leadership guru and a visionary thinker” who teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire their people. After watching his TED Talk on the golden circle, I was intrigued to hear what he had to say.

I wasn’t disappointed, and I can honestly say that he is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever listened to. I spent the morning rapidly scribbling down his every word. One thing that stood out to me was the importance of defining your ‘why’. I know for a lot of people all this airy-fairy leadership guru speak might be a bit off-putting, but at some point in our lives we should all spend some time thinking about what is actually important to us. Bringing a little person or people into the world can often be the trigger to contemplating some larger life questions.

So what is a ‘why statement’?

According to Simon, it’s:

“The compelling higher purpose that inspires us and acts as the source of all we do.”

I’ve collected some of the steps that he uses to help you define your why. So when you’re in the mood and feeling a little reflective, why not grab a pen and paper and spend some time thinking about yours?

The first step is to think about then jot down answers to these questions:

  • When are you at your best?
  • When are you at your worst?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • When do you feel most energized?
  • What is the core purpose of your role?
  • Why does it matter?

Once you have your list, see whether there are any key themes that emerge. Are there any words that you have an emotional response to or you feel particularly drawn to? If so, these are likely to be the most motivational words or phrases to include in your why statement.

The next step is to craft your why statement.

How to structure your ‘why statement’

To [insert contribution] so that [insert impact].

A good why statement is:

  • Simple, short, and easy to understand.
  • Doesn’t include ‘whats’, the tangible things we do.
  • Clear and can be understood without further explanation.

Some examples of some good ones are:

“To leave a positive impact on people’s lives so that they can realize their true potential.”

“To consistently grow, develop, and challenge myself so that I can be better than the person I was the day before.”

Here are some other guiding thoughts about this process. Defining your ‘why’ is actually a lot harder than you think, and it may take several weeks to craft something that is meaningful to you. Don’t worry, this is totally normal. You may also want to come back to it from time to time to see whether it still rings true for you.

The other confusing thing about this process is the overlap between your personal why and your career why. For me, my why statement needs to be all encompassing of both of these worlds. If my work is not aligned to my personal why, then this would prompt me to reassess the work I am doing and make some changes.

Once you have your why, it can be a very powerful statement that can help guide future career decisions and direction in life. So, what is your compelling higher purpose in life?

Written by Kate Pollard, Co-founder of Circle In

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