First and foremost, this isn't so much a book about leadership as it is a book about marketing. And, much like the fictional Don Draper, Sinek claims that the greatest leaders are charismatic "vision guys" who inspire. I couldn't disagree more. In my mind, good leaders create organizations which can exist beyond their leader. Sinek highlights corporations which only succeed with one person at the helm.
The book is dated, hugely repetitive, and highly questionable in its conclusions. Full of worn aphorisms about Apple, the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King, Jr., with simplified, dumbed-down (to the point of just being wrong) examples, the whole thing reads like those sickening motivational posters one finds in bland office complexes. Sinek states (over and over and over and over again) that money making corporations don't do best when they focus on the money, but when they focus on the philosophical goals -- like "changing the world". He waxes on throughout the book about how wonderful Apple is because it challenged the status quo. Like any Mac lover who has drunk the Koolaid, he has basically written a book which could be subtitled "Apple, its the best thing ever, and here are 200 pages of text telling you why." (I did find it hysterical that with all of his Apple genuflecting, he still felt the need to correct the corporation's grammar -- according to Sinek, Apple "thinks differently" instead "Think Different")
Written in 2009, some of Sinek's proclamations about success no longer hold true. There have been a plethora of economic impacts which have vastly changed the business landscape in the past seven years, making many of Sinek's points, well, out of touch. The housing market melt-down? Not mentioned. The oil crisis impact on airlines? Happened after publication. Social media, online shopping? Nada. Even Apple's path has changed, and we have learned a lot (some might say too much) about Steve Jobs' leadership style since 2009.
The repetition, too, is beyond irritating. Take this section, from page 120: "This is because the early majority, according to Rogers, will not try something until someone else has tried it first. The early majority, indeed the entire majority, need the recommendation of someone else who has already sampled the product or service. They need to know someone else has tested it."
So, he repeats his point three times in the first paragraph. And, in case you missed it, from paragraph two, "...the early majority won't try something new until someone else has tried it first."
Yup. He repeats not only the same idea, but the same phrase, throughout the chapter. If that wasn't grating enough, the words "WHY" "HOW" and "WHAT" are capitalized throughout, overemphasizing the points, making it clear that the reader is stupid.
Near the end of the book, Sinek refers to the Battle of Agincourt. Not only does he suggest the absolutely wrong lessons from this historic battle, but it only tangentially connects to what he is talking about in that chapter (maybe he saw the Henry V movie ...). This kind of thing is evident throughout the book, which reads like so much stream of consciousness. He leaps from one statement to the other with little supporting evidence, and the evidence he does use is tertiary to his arguments. On page 218, he makes it clear that this whole idea came from a random conversation with a marketer at a convention, and says the next part of his inspiration was something he, in his own words, "tripped over." I gagged when he stated that a failing entreprenurial effort left him so depressed he was "beyond suicidal" -- that he realized he would "have to get a job". Perhaps meant as a joke, it came off as entitlement at its worst. The final blow came near the end, when he said "I'm not better connected than everyone else. I don't have a better work ethic. I don't have an Ivy League education and my grades in college were average. The funniest part is, I still don't know how to build a business."
Sinek counts himself as a success because he has made money as a motivational speaker. That's it. He came up with this flimsy excuse of an idea and managed to market it. It's the ultimate snake-oil play -- he is a success at nothing other than marketing an idea for marketing.
A quick look around the internet for Simon Sinek, however, leads to to the fact that this book was a best-seller, and that Mr. Sinek is appreciated, if, for nothing else, the TED Talk he did in conjunction with the release of this book. So as not to be the kid jumping up and down yelling "The Emperor has no clothes", I watched the infamous TED Talk. For others who hate the book -- this is what you should do. In 18 minutes, he gives you a summary of everything in the book -- in a far more succinct manner.
As to the TED Talk? I can see why it was a hit. Simon Sinek is young, handsome, earnest and successful (not to mention having a hint of that UK accent every American loves). I do wonder -- if this talk had been delivered by a middle-aged, overweight woman with a lisp, would it have been nearly as successful? Sinek denies that the medium is the message, but I'm betting the message coming from him is different than if it were delivered by someone else. My bottom line? The only "Why" I came away with was "Why" I had to read this inane book.