Why do you do the work you do? It’s a question that drives the mission of author Simon Sinek, whose 2009 “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” TED Talk quickly became the second-most watched of all time. His research and concepts about effective leadership have inspired thousands of people in small and large companies, government agencies, and the military. Sinek has since published three books, with his Find Your Why due out later this year.
We caught up with the author and motivational speaker to find out how his positive message is helping his audience find deeper inspiration.
EL | You’re described as an “unshakable optimist.” Where does this stem from? Have you always been so optimistic or was it learned?
Simon Sinek | I’m not sure when I learned it or if it is innate. I do know that how we see the world is a choice. We can choose to see all the things that could make something work or we can choose to see the things that will make something not work. I choose to see what can make something work.
EL | How do you help others find a more positive outlook?
SS | Optimism is contagious. The best thing I can do is stay positive. I can’t help someone “find” a more positive outlook — only they can do that. All I can do is be positive myself and hopefully they will opt to see what I see. We all have a responsibility to stay positive and optimistic as an act of service to the people we care about.
EL | What is the one thing you’ve found to bring people in an organization together the fastest?
SS | Honesty. It is amazing how, when we are honest about our fears or shortcomings, when we say exactly what we know or don’t know, all the lying, hiding, and faking falls away. At that point, everyone relaxes and starts to see each other as we really are: human. Trust and cooperation follow shortly after.
EL | What are some of the key habits you’ve observed of the leaders who are most inspirational to those around them?
SS | Courage is the big one. The courage to do the right thing. The courage to speak truth to power. The courage to focus on what’s right for the long term, even if there is a short-term expense. When others see that their leader has the courage to do the right thing, it inspires courage in others to follow suit.
EL | Who or what inspires you?
SS | I’m a sucker for stories of sacrifice or service. Those who give up something so that another or others may gain gets me every time. My longtime friend and mentor, George Flynn, was a general in the United States Marine Corps. He inspires me.