The one-sentence summary

It doesn’t so much matter what you do in business – it matters why you do it.


  • It doesn’t so much matter what you do in business – it matters why you do it.
  • Great leaders can inspire everyone to take action when they start with why.
  • Businesses typically use a range of carrots and sticks to manipulate customers: price, promotions, using fear, peer pressure or aspiration, and promising innovation, which is often simply a euphemism for novelty.
  • He introduces the Golden Circle, with why in the middle, then how, then what on the outside.
  • The sequence is important because it’s the reverse of what happens in most companies, who can easily say what they do, and sometimes how, but rarely why they do it.
  • This sequence mirrors how the brain works – with the limbic brain in the centre responsible for our feelings (why), and the neocortex performing rational functions (what).
  • Companies need clarity, discipline and consistency to stick to their ‘why’, and this becomes their true authenticity, unlike other companies who hilariously ask their customers how they can ‘be more authentic’.


  • When you are motivated by why, success just happens because people who believe what you believe find you and trust you. Give the people something to believe in and they will come.
  • Energy excites and charisma inspires. This source of inspiration needs to be amplified by employees.
  • Turning the Golden Circle into a 3-D cone provides a directional hierarchy for an organisation that explains how to do this: on the top is the leader, who explains why; the next level down are the executives who know how to bring this to life; the whats are the action needed as a result.
  • All these elements need to be linked so that the action is constantly reinforced by the why.
  • The why is the thing that is present in most start-ups, and is the first thing to veer off when a company proves to be a success.
  • Good successions can keep the why alive, but when it dies, the what is all that people have left. This is where things usually go wrong.
  • Why is the most difficult thing to articulate because the part of the brain that controls it doesn’t control language.


  • Citing Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King is all very well but they are hardly typical of the rest of us.
  • It’s well written and is a global best seller, but his TED talk on the same theme is arguably more inspiring.