Service: Why the Why is so Powerful

Simon Sinek revealed his Golden Circle to the world in a TEDx Puget Sound talk. In his talk, Sinek explains how every organization explains what they do. Many organizations define how they do it. However, he goes on, the greatest leaders explain WHY they do what they do.

What - How - Why - Service“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” -Simon Sinek

Sinek’s talk resonated with me. Yet, there seemed to be one piece missing. Why is the Why so powerful? Then it hit me: the Service.

Service is at the Heart of Why

When you connect with a message because you agree on the why, you know who the mission serves. Consider this scenario: two car manufacturers selling similar vehicles, with different approaches.

Car Manufacturer A

We believe you shouldn’t have to go to the gas station more than once a month. We also believe we all have a stake in the future of our natural environments. We like to ensure our customers are fully supported at all times.

Car Manufacturer B

We make cars with high MPG and low emissions. We offer several warranty options and have our vehicles rated for safety performance like everyone else.

All other factors being equal, which car would you rather buy? Is it because you understand why they make the product they do?

I agree with Sinek. Yet, to me, the heart of the reason I would buy from Manufacturer A is because I know who they serve and it is not self-interest. In contrast, nothing in Manufacturer B’s pitch suggest any interest of their own, beyond profits.

If You Serve Others:

Your “Why” resonates with others.

Your “Why” is not self-interest.

Your “Why” benefits your stakeholders.

If You are Self-Serving:

Your “Why” will offend others.

Your “Why” is self-serving.

You better stick with “What” and “How”.

wRight or Langely?

In his talk, Sinek compares the Wright Brothers, who had very little funding, education or connections to Samuel Pierpot Langley who had massive investments, extensive connections and tons of media coverage. Yet, the Wright brothers discovered flight. Why was that? Sinek says:

“The Wright brothers, were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll change the course of the world. Samuel Pierpot Langley was different. He wanted to be rich and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result… …The people who believed in the Wright brothers’ dream worked with them with blood, sweat and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck.”

People backed the Wright brothers because they wanted to serve the world. The Langley’s of the world are self-serving and those who know them see this. This is especially true in our world of social media transparency.

I am grateful for Sinek’s talk. If you haven’t seen it. watch it now. Then, take it one step further. Ask what is at the heart of your “Why”. I bet you’ll find service pumping the lifeblood of “Why” for your mission


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

2 thoughts on “Service: Why the Why is so Powerful”

  1. Sinek’s talk was, perhaps, one of the most intriguing I’ve ever heard…as is his latest book. I use it as a reference weekly for presentation ideas and concepts. He’s a brilliant mind to say the least.

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