I recently watched a Ted Talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. If you are unfamiliar with Ted Talks—stop reading now. Go to ted.com. Look around- don’t get lost.  Come back to finish reading. I’ll wait to give you time.


<Insert elevator music while waiting>


All right, you back? Amazing website, I know!


Back to the talk I watched- “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. While I watched this presentation by Simon Sinek, I couldn’t help but rephrase his topic to the instructional standpoint, which resulted in the question of “How do great instructors inspire action?”


Golden CircleSinek introduces the Golden Circle of Why, How, and What.  Knowing the answers to these questions show why some leaders are able to inspire while others are not. He points out that everyone knows their What. They know what they do, but few know their Why.  The Why defines their purpose, cause and belief driving what they do.  Because it is so easily definable, the What tends to be a focus in our society. Starting with the What causes one to work through the circle from the outside to the center. Alternatively great leaders differ by knowing their Why in life with their driving force stemming from the Why- causing them to work through the circle inside-out. The image to the left explains the motions of the circle.


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” -Simon Sinek


Sinek says this one line often in his presentation. Though this talk is about marketing and inspiring leaders, how can this be applied to instructors? Often times we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the semester and can lose sight of the Why we are doing what we do. Why are we teaching the courses we are teaching? If we do not believe in it, why would our students? As instructors, if we lose sight of our Why, then our How and What can be off target. Students may not be able to verbalize it, but they can sense when an instructor has lost sight of their Why.  As an instructor, how can you get in touch with your Why? Why are you teaching? Once you can answer this question, the How and What will fall into place.


The Golden Circle can also be applied to the classroom by asking, “Why should students take this course?” Notice I didn’t ask why they do take it- that can often and easily lead to a response as it pertains to graduation requirements. Why would they want to take the course? What is the purpose or cause for the course? Defining the purpose of the course and evaluating the assignments against that purpose leads to better quality work from both you and the student.


As we approach the beginning of a new semester, how are you tapping into your Why?


To watch Simon Sinek explain the Golden Circle, follow this link: http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

Share →

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop us a note so we can take care of it!

The Student Think Center is an initiative of the Learning Enhancement Center at The University of Southern Mississippi funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Strengthening Institutions Program [Title III Part A] for $1,954,151 over a five year period.

Contact Us


Mailing Address:
118 College Drive #9638
The University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-001

International Center, Suite 319

Gulf Coast Library, Suite 101