There are leaders and there are those who lead, so says Simon Sinek in his rousing TED Talk from 2009. Many who wish to lead spend time looking for inspiring stories of others who are doing what they want to be doing. They will read books by authors who have written what they want to write.  They will try things others have already tried.

In other words, they follow – which happens to be the opposite of lead. Throughout his talk, Sinek repeats, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Do people buy your ‘why?’

Do people buy your ‘why?’ Let’s take a look at a few traits that are common among those who lead.


Do things differently, your own way. If you have a great idea and the means to follow through on it, do so. Don’t look to someone who appears to be successful to see what they’ve already done. That’s called copying – or following – someone else. Those who lead do so by example. The rest are followers. You can’t be both.


Everybody can use a bit of inspiration. Oftentimes, we look outside ourselves for what we think might inspire us. Those who lead, however, find their inspiration from within themselves. They believe in what they’re doing and know truly why they’re doing it. This, in turn, inspires them to keep going.

Be Smart.

Those who lead make smart decisions. You don’t need an Ivy-league education to be someone who leads. Simon Sinek references the Wright brothers who, despite having no higher education, invented, built and flew the world’s first airplane in 1903. Their competitor was highly educated, had lots of funding and support. But we’ve never heard of him because he didn’t invent the airplane. The Wright brothers believed in their design and in what they were doing and made smart decisions because of it.

Create Culture.

Sinek says if you hire someone for the job, they will work for your money but if you hire someone who believes in you, they will give you blood, sweat and tears. We follow those who lead to benefit ourselves, not to benefit that person. We believe what they believe and will work hard to see it come to fruition because it affects us.

Know Your Why.

Sinek bases his talk around his idea of The Golden Circle. It is a three-ringed circle and begins with what, then how, then why you do what you do. Most people understand what they do and how they do it. But if you ask someone – yourself, perhaps – why they are doing what they’re doing, getting an answer is not nearly as easy.

The answer, by the way, is not ‘for the money.’ As Sinek points out, ‘for the money’ is a result, not a purpose. Knowing your purpose – your why – will attract those who believe what you believe. The goal is, as Sinek indicates, not to do business with people who need what you have but to do business with people who believe what you believe.

Written by Jess Campbell