Don’t Start With a Plan!


One of my most valued mentors, though we have never met, is Simon Sinek.

I first learned of Simon, and benefited from his wisdom, when I watched his TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”  I have long been interested in the art and science of true leadership. For me (as for Simon), leadership is about the person, not the position. For this reason, Simon’s talk resonated very deeply back then; and it still resonates today. In this blog I want to draw from Simon’s talk.

Whether you are leading your organization through change, or the change is much more personal, one of the keys to success is to be your own leader in your change journey. With this in mind, a key question becomes, “How do you inspire your own actions?”

If you are familiar with TED, the speakers frequently use powerful visuals projected on large screens to reinforce their messages. Simon only used a single page of a flip chart on which he drew three concentric circles. As he spoke, he labeled them: What, How, Why.  He refers to this illustration as “The Golden Circle.”

The message of The Golden Circle is simple, and it is vital to achieving success if the change you are facing is significant.


Great leaders think, act, and communicate the same way! They lead from the inside out! (Simon Sinek)

Simon illustrates the power of this approach with several examples including Apple, the Wright brothers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The point really took root for me when he said of Dr. King,

He gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech, (Simon Sinek).

I had always given planning a great deal of respect; I still do today. But you don’t start with a plan; you don’t start with “what” you are going to do. You start with what is in your heart. You start with Why.

What is your Why? 

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