Quick-take: Bland, extremely repetitive.
I knew I made a mistake with this book when it started off with a comparison of The Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King, and... Apple.
Really? We are putting Apple into that group?
I hope you enjoy those 3 stories, because those are the only stories he has. He repeats each of them at least 3 times, in entirety, throughout the book. Apple makes an appearance every chapter. All making the same point.
He then goes into a series of bland one-liners of "Leaders inspire! Followers follow them because they WANT to!"
The rest of the book is....
Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple. Ad nauseum.
I suppose Mr. Sinek can't help himself. Even when he tries to avoid fanboying Apple: "Apple is not perfect. It has its faults." He then goes right back to Apple, Apple, Apple. I started making mental notes when the topic changed... just waiting for Apple to reappear. I actually said out loud, "There it is! Back to Apple!"
He did manage to squeeze in some interesting content around Apple. He talked about the dramatic turnaround of Continental Airlines. There weren't many tips to pick up other than adding incentives to focus on a clear goal: A $65 bonus if Continental makes the top 5 of on-time airlines that month. It is for every month and every employee. Pretty nice. He also fired execs that intentionally delayed a plane b/c they were late.
Oh, by the way... Apple? Apple is awesome, right? Let me talk about it for another 5 pages making the exact same point about it.
One of the main faults of this book is something I have noticed with most Leadership books I pick up. It tries to be everything to everybody. It is so high-level and so generic that it is impossible to walk away with tangible action items.
Hold on... let me talk about Apple again...
So what is Mr. Sinek trying to tell us by "start with why"?
He says you should be able to clearly state why you are in business (other than the obvious: to make money). Assuming all things are basically equal (price, features, etc), why should somebody buy your product over another? If you can't answer that, then you risk your product or service becoming a commodity. A low-cost copycat can come in and steal your business. It is now a race to the bottom.
You want your customers to be loyal. Loyal customers will seek you out directly, pay more, overlook small problems, etc. To do that, they need to believe in a mission beyond just your product. They should feel something for your business.
... time to talk about Apple again...
In between endless fanboying Apple, he also mentioned Southwest Airlines. Southwest wants to be the airline for the non-elites. The price is simple, the ride is fun, and the ride is on time.
The other airlines attempted their version of Southwest, and it failed. So "Why?" People do business with Southwest because they do not want the other major airlines. Southwest is the airline built "for them".
.... Oh.. how about Apple? Let's talk Apple some more... You see, Steve Jobs had a vision for a different company...
I basically summarized the entire book. The whole book is really just a 30min conference talk stretched out to a 250 page book. It has no data to back up his bold claims. Mr. Sinek claims he knows what famous execs are thinking "Steve Jobs knows that blah". "MLK knows that blah...". It is beyond repetitive, at times repeating the exact same story fully. It has the exact same references.
This book is like watching a 15 second joke stretched out to a 5 min comedy sketch. It is painful. Because it talks at such a high level, by the time you are done reading, you won't be sure exactly what you learned. The book has few tangible takeaways. Score: 1/5. Read a blog summary instead.