Imagine you want to start your own business. You know what product or service to offer and how you want to offer it. But do you know why you want to go to all this trouble of setting up shop?

Finding answers to ‘why’ is what you must aspire to do if you want to accomplish your goals and become successful.

Simon Sinek, author and inspirational speaker, delivered a pathbreaking talk on ‘how great leaders inspire action’. He developed the golden circle theory stating how great leaders inspire people to think for themselves and create a solution-driven business.

  1. What Is The Golden Circle?

  2. The What, How And Why Of The Golden Circle

  3. Reasons To Answer The ‘Why’ Question

  4. The Golden Circle In A Fast-Paced World

  5. Lead Yourself Before Leading Others

What Is The Golden Circle?


The Simon Sinek golden circle theory is illustrated as three concentric circles with ‘why’ in the center, followed by ‘how’ and finally, ‘what’. According to Sinek, most organizations and individuals only focus on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their actions. There are very few people who think about the ‘why’. These few people constitute some of the greatest leaders and success stories in human history. Some examples of golden circle are Apple, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King Jr.

According to Sinek’s theory, many of us think from the outside in—what > how > why. We know what we’re doing and some of us know how we’re going to do it. But a majority don’t focus on why. This keeps us from unlocking our full potential.

If you want to be the best version of yourself and be successful, you need to know what you want to do, how you want to do it and most importantly, why you want to do it. Understanding the Simon Sinek golden circle theory will help you get to the bottom of why you have certain goals. 

The What, How And Why Of The Golden Circle


Sinek defined each circle and what it constitutes in the context of leadership. Let’s take an example to understand how you can use the golden circle theory to lead and inspire yourself and others.

Rashi has five years of experience as a writer. She’s worked with a news agency and a digital marketing firm in the past. She believes she has enough knowledge and practical experience to start her own lifestyle magazine. Rashi wants to enter the publishing sphere and become a chief editor. She knows exactly what she’s doing and how she’s going to execute her vision.

However, the first few issues of her magazine don’t do as well as she’d hoped. She’s not able to engage with her readers or understand what went wrong. She starts to feel flustered and helpless even before she crosses the one-year mark.

During the course of her professional journey, Rashi didn’t stop to think why she writes or why she wants to publish her own magazine. Soon enough, she wasn’t able to share her vision with her readers because she didn’t know what to say. Maybe she wanted to make a difference in their lives or give them comfort with her stories. Identifying her whys would’ve helped her communicate them to her audience.

Taking the time to answer your whys will help you make better decisions and realize your dreams. Think of it as finding a motive to do what you’re doing. If you’re going in without complete understanding, your actions won’t reap the expected results. It’s better to be prepared from the beginning to mitigate room for error or failure.

Let’s unwrap the what, how and why of the Simon Sinek golden circle theory:

  1. What

The ‘what’ defines our plans, strategies and ideas for execution. In the workplace, this may define the products we sell or services we offer our clients and customers. Each organization is well aware of what they’re doing in terms of administrative and technical work. They know exactly what they need to create, refine and sell.


  1. How

Next comes the ‘how’ that explains the way we can help or inspire others. For an organization, it defines how their product or service improves their customer’s life or adds value to their client’s business. For an individual, it shows what steps you need to take to arrive at your results or reach your goals. Think of this as the action stage where you’re executing your plan.


  1. Why

The most important stage is the ‘why’ stage or your purpose. Why do you want to work? Why do you want to learn? If we start asking ourselves why we want to achieve a particular goal or choose a particular method, we’ll likely make better decisions, stand by our beliefs and be self-motivated to accomplish our objectives. It’s the ‘why’ that’s most often overlooked. We forget that we need a reason that drives and inspires us before we attempt to inspire others. 

What’s important in the golden circle model is the order in which we choose to follow these steps. According to Sinek, we usually start from the outside going in. Starting with ‘what’ makes us lose sight of, or never really acknowledge, the ‘why’. Leaders that inspire action always start by understanding why they want to do something. 

Reasons To Answer The ‘Why’ Question


If you want to arrive at your purpose, you must ask why. For instance, if you drink coffee in the morning, you know why you need it; it’s to help you wake up and prepare for the day. Similarly, if you apply for a job knowing you believe in the organization’s mission statement, you’ll likely give winning answers during an interview. On the other hand, applying for jobs solely for the paycheck, without focusing on why and how you’re the right fit, can significantly derail your plans.

  1. Answering ‘why’ gives you clarity.

  2. It gives you a chance to understand your motivations, intentions and purpose in life.

Say you want to save the pangolins, as they’re going extinct. You reach out to a wildlife conservatory and request to volunteer. They put you in the education and awareness department. With this role, you tell people why we need to protect pangolins and how we can do it. The result, or the what, would be saving a species from extinction. 

Knowing your purpose leads to better and long-lasting results. This way, you’ll add meaning to your life and find value in your decisions. 

The Golden Circle In A Fast-Paced World


Today, the world changes at lightning speed. This doesn’t mean that we no longer have the time to think about why we do what we do. If you can stop to think about the reasons behind your actions, you may get the motivation to change jobs, ask for a raise or study further. Examples of Simon Sinek golden circle theory are rooted in self-motivation, personal beliefs and a drive for change. The Wright brothers wanted to give the world a way to fly and Apple aspired to change how we interact with technology.

Here’s how you can use the golden circle to be the best version of yourself:

  • Think about what makes you happy and what you want to achieve with your actions

  • Think of the big picture but don’t overlook the details

  • Find your story, where you’ve come from and the experiences that have shaped you

  • Communicate with others, understand what they need and how you can fulfill those needs

  • Position yourself in a way others can identify with to start a conversation

The golden circle is a helpful tool you can use to build trust and credibility. It helps you tackle unanswered questions, making you more sensitive to things that aren’t being said. You’ll learn how to ask the right questions that’ll help you grow in your role as a professional. If you’re a leader, asking ‘why’ can break communication barriers, opening doors for effective goal-setting and feedback. 

Lead Yourself Before Leading Others


Every leader is inspired and driven to lead people on the right path. In an organization, this may be a manager or a team head or even the CEO. But the most important thing is that they’re well-versed with what they need to do to accomplish their goals. This is because they know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. If you want to realize your full potential and be your best self, Harappa’s Leading Self course will teach you how.

Our course has been designed to include key concepts and frameworks such as The Ladder of Learning to help you learn about your competencies and skills. You’ll learn how to overcome limiting beliefs and step out of your comfort zone. Let nothing stand in your way, not even yourself.

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the LEAD habit such as Factors Influencing Self-EsteemLeadership Qualities That Make A Good Leader, What Are Life Skills, Key Employability Skills In Today's World & Guide to Personal SWOT Analysis to take charge of your personal and professional growth.

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