5 Best Simon Sinek Quotes and How You Can Apply Them

Beatriz Boavida
Apr 15, 2024
11 min read

Simon Sinek.

We’re guessing you already heard of him, follow his work, or have even read some of his books.

When we are speaking about leadership, his name is one of the tops that pop into our heads. He is known for being a visionary thinker in this field. For years, he has focused his curiosity on exploring how leaders can inspire cooperation, trust, and change.

In this article, we will share 5 of the most important Simon Sinek quotes and how you can put them into practice so positive change may follow.

“When we know why we do what we do, everything falls into place. When we don’t, we have to push things into place.”

Great leaders are the ones who can inspire action. And not the ones that dictate action.

Throughout his career, Simon Sinek noticed there was a pattern underlying leaders’ behaviour when they successfully inspired their teams into action: Great leaders clearly explain to their teams WHY they are doing what they are doing.

The problem is leaders often overlook the power of purpose and belief and focus deeply on the tangible and logical aspects of their company’s value proposition. Simon Sinek entitled this approach The Golden Circle.

Sinek’s framework can be visually represented by three circles inside one another. At the centre (the smaller circle) you have the WHY, in the middle you find the HOW, and the larger circle represents the WHAT.

Most leaders communicate from the outside in – from WHAT to WHY. But when they do so people are not moved into action. It is in our biology. We only act and decide based on emotions – even though we like to see ourselves as highly rational beings.

If your goal is to generate positive change when leading your employees, you need to communicate from the inside out – from WHY to WHAT. Here are a few best practices to help you:

  1. Clearly define your WHY. If you do not have a clear vision of your company’s purpose, how can you communicate it? Grab a paper and pen and write down your why statement as simply and concisely as possible.

  2. Use expressions like “We believe…”. Purpose is related to belief. When communicating your WHY clearly state “we believe…”. When you phrase things this way you are connecting to your employee’s emotions.

  3. Always communicate from WHY to What. The logic that you communicate your company purpose – WHY you do what you do, what are your beliefs, then because of those beliefs you do things a certain way – communicate your HOW, only then do you state WHAT you do, as it is a result of the combination of WHY and HOWs.

  4. Be consistent in building a new habit. Start communicating inside out consistently and intentionally so that after some time you form a new habit of communicating.

“A weak leader likes to tell us how many people work for them. A great leader is humbled to tell us how many people they work for.”

According to Simon Sinek, great leaders put the safety and lives of the people they lead first. They do not look to lead from authority, they lead from trust and compassion.

Sinek first observed this in a life-and-death situation: the marine, but then he realised it also happens in the business sphere. When leaders put the safety and well-being of their employees first, sacrificing their comfort and tangible results, the people feel safe and a sense of belonging. Consequently, their work, motivation, engagement, and productivity increase.

Simon Sinek usually uses two real-life examples to illustrate the power of creating safe work environments and promoting cooperation:

Here is what you can do to promote safety and cooperation in your team:

“If we want people to speak to us honestly, we must be willing to honestly listen.”

Leaders must master the art of listening. Many mistake this for the act of listening.

Listening is not the art of hearing the words spoken. It is the art of understanding the meaning behind those words. Simon Sinek

If you want your employees to speak honestly to you, you need to build trust. One of the ways you can do that is by making people feel safe, seen, and heard when they speak to you. It is about talking less and listening more.

Here are Simon Sinek’s 3-step formula to honestly listen to your employees:

  1. Replace judgement with curiosity. This is a challenging, yet powerful shift to have meaningful conversations. Start by being curious about the other person’s perspective. Even if they go against what you believe, be curious about the WHYs behind what they are saying.

  2. Empty the bucket. You never have the opportunity for a conversation until one of you has the opportunity to say everything they have to say. Make sure you create this safe space for your employees.

  3. Avoid interrupting or pointing out the flaws in their logic.

  4. Use expressions like “Go on.” or “Tell me more.” – they invite the other person to continue sharing.

  5. Start the conversation. Once they empty their bucket, you have the opportunity to constructively express your perspective. This is when the conversation begins. Make sure you continue nurturing a safe space for dialogue.

  6. This phase can be key to helping you build common ground.

“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”

Simon Sinek said this, and he is not the only one to believe it. More leaders are tuning in to the idea that each person you hire will impact your teams’ dynamics and consequent results. And there is a more positive impact if the person you hire believes in what you believe in (your company’s purpose) than if they are solely motivated by money, for instance.

As a leader, it is on you to hire not only for skills but especially for attitude.

Simon Sinek identified one obstacle that may blur leaders’ vision when hiring: selfish hiring – only hiring people who have worked for renowned companies/competitors and have great skills on paper. The problem with selfish hiring is that often there is a mismatch between the person’s profile and your company culture.

This is how Sinek would go about hiring:

“For an employee to take responsibility, they must first be given it.”

The success of a company always comes down to trust. 

Simon Sinek even uses a definition of love and applies it to business when trying to explain how great leaders create accountability and a sense of ownership in their teams: “giving someone the power to destroy you, and trust that they won’t”.

When working with multiple offices, he noticed that when leaders make themselves vulnerable to their business partners, colleagues, and employees – giving them the power to destroy the company and trusting that they won’t – they give people responsibility for the company’s outcomes.

Here are a few things you can start doing today:

This promotes self-reliability and accountability – which are critical for employee and company growth.

Key takeaways

Simon Sinek has defined what great leadership looks like. If we had to summarise it in a few words it comes down to building trust, a sense of belonging, and genuinely holding space for people to express themselves without the fear of being punished.

You can start today improving yourself as a leader so you can be an even better support for your team.

Make your team love mondays!

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