An Inspirational TED Talk

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Makes me want to ask the question and allegorise this video to teachers and teaching… I always say that teachers metamorph into different roles and acts….the teacher is a salesperson, marketing manager, actor, designer, scientist – the teacher is a LEADER…  learners will buy into our knowledge not because of the what? what will you become? what am I doing?  Learners may buy into our knowledge because of the  Why? Why do we do this? Why are we in this class in this minute? Why are you teaching? Will you inspire anyone?

… very insightful indeed… any comments?


27 thoughts on “An Inspirational TED Talk

  1. I watched this clip and I realised how true it is that very few people ask or know why they do what they do. Why? And we as teachers should alos ask why teach? I always believed that being a teacher is fulfilling, but why? …I think that it’s because we can make a difference in the lives of our students. It is not about teaching the subject only, but before that, we have to see what are the needs of the students and help them. With our attitudes, we as teachers can inspire other students. I once read: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires”. Feel free to watch this videoclip:

  2. I agree that teachers are leaders. Leaders in every sense and they have the responsibility to cultivate the heart rather than teaching the mind. We live in a world full of knowledge accessible through the click of a button but we are lacking values which unites us all. Look at the Arab spring for example. The leaders of those places were not a unifying figure for their people any more because of the atrocities that they did to their people. Today in the West, when economy is at a downfall because of greediness or misappropriation of money is another example of what losing values may propagate. In all these circumstances the teacher needs to be a positive leader where s/he leads his pupils to become whole persons in every way possible. This is no easy task however the end result is very rewarding.

  3. 2. This talk, made me really reflect on my profession as a teacher. I really like the theory of the golden circle: why, how, what. Am I as a teacher inspiring others? Not just my students, but also my colleagues and the staff I am working with?
    The goal of education, our teaching, should be based on: making the students believe on what the teacher believes. The teacher should be the salesperson for his/her particular subject, must deliver energy in the preparation and teaching and most of all must empower the students to believe in themselves and be ready to take risks, be adventurous and experience new things.

    I am what I am today, because a teacher (someone) believed in me and encouraged me. If all teachers/educators/family members… adopt this principle, society would be a better place to live in.

    • Really interesting video, it made me play it and play it again because it made me reflect a lot. I as a teacher should be able to invest in the why rather than what and how of the golden circle. When we do something we have to start from the why of the thing rather than the “what” in order to be successful.

  4. We will all come across the students who will tell us that they do not like our subject. This may be because of the fact that nobody ever really motivated them during the tuition of the subject. Teachers tend to give the blame to the student and do not reflect on what they might be doing wrong. This is a common mistake that one should think about.
    This video struck me as it explains how we take things for granted and how we become boring. It shows us how we tend to demotivate our students because we do not challenge nor motivate them during our class. Sometimes we tend to follow what the majority of the people are doing just to keep on the safe side, instead of standing out of the crowd. We need strike our students with what we do and show them that we believe in what we are teaching. We may be compared to sales representatives that have to convince a person that their product is so good they just cannot do without it. The same principal can be applicable to the subject we teach.

  5. This video clip makes me question what really counts, what are my believes and priorities as a teacher. Is it most important covering the syllabus in time? Following the lesson plan as planned? or making sure that each student is learning and his/her needs are met? An interested video clip to see is the following (Taken from film The Blindside):

    The Blindside – Clips for Teachers (

    • I think that a teacher has to be human first and foremost… and not just human but humane… sometimes I believe that as teachers we miss the wood for the trees – sometimes we think that by targeting exams we are really educating our students. I don’t think so. I think and sincerely believe that we educate first, that we show care, love and affection for the persons in front of us, despite who they are or the image they portray. We are persons, and they are persons and the one thing which we should think about is how to make each and every one of us better – and this is irrespective of the pass or fail in exams.

      • I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately our education system stresses a lot about getting good grades in exams. Educators are most often pushed to finish the syllabus by the time of the exams. This will eventually lead teachers to reduce the amount of attention on both social and emotional needs of the pupils, thus not establishing a good teacher-pupil relationship. As Noddings (1992) said, “the focus on social processes in education does not, however, weaken achievement, nor is it a distraction from learning. On the contrary, an ethic of caring is at the heart of teaching and learning , providing a foundation upon which effective learning and success can be built and socio-emotional competence developed” (as cited in Cefai, 2008, p.55). As educators, we have to keep in mind that caring for our pupils will encourage them in developing both socially and emotionally, and also increases their intellectual abilities.

  6. Why teaching? I chose this profession because I truly believe that teachers can make a difference in a student’s life. I think that enthusiasm and energy must come from within and the teacher must have the ‘passion’ for the subject she is teaching, but most of all the students’ well being at heart. Teaching requires a great deal of energy; However, it is important that the teacher remains positive and motivated, and keep in mind the WHY he/she chose teaching in the first place because in order to be inspiring the he/she must be congruent with what he/she believes.

  7. “Those who start with the ‘why’ have the ability to inspire those around them”. This is so true. I have experienced this reality when I was a secondary school student. I loved both German and Maltese in the same way, but I’ve made an important future decision: being a Maltese teacher. Why not a German language teacher? The answer is simple: The Maltese teacher was the primary resource inorder to further expand my studies in that particular subject. This teacher had a carisma, and above all a great passion for teaching our native language. She really focused on the ‘why’ of teaching and on the ‘why’ students should study Maltese. With her all means, she shed light on my decisions. This act of teaching, pushed me to invest in learning.
    By sharing this past experience, all I wanted to say is, that a good teacher should have the connective capacity inorder to connect with his/her students and being able to transmit clearly the aims of what she/he does in the classroom.

  8. Being innovative and creative is important. But it is also challenging considering the way we have always been taught. Knowing what we should do is far from being enough to accomplish it. We need time, will-power and also experience.

  9. Like any other job, the teaching profession may attract people for all the wrong reasons – the holidays, the flexibility, the hours etc. – but like in any other field of employment, it is those people who believe in what they are doing who will succeed and who will eventually inspire others to do the same.

    I believe that my role as a teacher is not to merely transmit knowledge, but to inspire students to achieve their full potential. I have often wondered whether this is too idealistic and how I would react to students who might not be interested in realising their potential. This video helped me develop a new perspective. If I am able to communicate to the students WHY I consider learning to be important and my belief that everyone is able to develop his/her potential, and if WHAT and HOW I do it proves this belief, then maybe yes … I will be able to lead and to inspire.. not because of the position of authority that I hold as a teacher but because the students also believe what I believe!

  10. Rightly so, we are very much like, as Dan Meyer indicates, marketing managers or sales representatives.

    I come from the maths area, a subject perceived by many as ‘very difficult’ and ‘for the few’. Sticking to the sales analogy we are trying to sell a product to a market that doesn’t want it, but is forced by law to buy it. It’s just a losing proposition.

    It’s our vocation rather than our job to market our ‘product’ not only as ‘digestible’ to our to our customers but also ‘attractive’ and ‘can’t do away without it’.

    Might as well think in the ‘why, how, what’ direction rather than in the ‘what, how, why’.
    I believe that in doing so, our products would sell much more.

  11. Teachers are leaders in a way that they must lead their students on a motivational path of enquiry and learning. Similar to David Mallia’s wonderful quote is:
    Tell me, I forget
    Show me, I remember
    Involve me, I understand
    (Benjamin Franklin)
    And I believe that this is really meaningful. If you tell your students something, they might forget it. If you back up your explanation with a demonstration, there is a higher probability that they will remember it. But if you involve your students and say why that particular piece of information is important, why it is meaningful, then the probability of recall would be much higher. It is essential to explain the what, who, how, where and more importantly, the why. And Simon Sinek gives the latter feature the most importance.

    We can use the analogy presented by Sinek of the Apple Company; they have access to recruiting people, the same resources, consultants and media; but why are they more innovative than other computer companies? The answer to this question is because this company does not just show the how and the what, but the why behind their production…not just about the money, but also about the purpose. He says that the most fundamental question that we have to answer to first is the why, then the how and what.
    When we apply this to our classrooms, we must ask why we are going to teach this particular piece of information. What is the purpose behind this fundamental piece of information? We must be leaders in order to inspire our students in a way that they would like to know more about the topic being taught. By doing this, students are encouraged to apply new knowledge to their previous background knowledge.

  12. I watched this video and found that it was really inspirational. I think it’s true that there is what, how and why. Everyone knows what he is doing and some know how to do it. But the main question is why are we doing what we are doing. Teachers also need to know why they are doing this and not doing that. They have to explain the students why they are doing it that way. If the teachers themselves don’t know why, then learning cannot take place. Teachers expect many things from students but so do students. They expect that they are taught things that will be helpful to go live the rest of their lives

  13. Great video, I love TED talks…there are some really inspirational ones.

    Check this one out, I had come across it last year. Ken Robinson talks about creativity and children’s capabilities and how it’s all reflected in the educational system. He says that “creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”

  14. Hi all, So I’ve been looking at this article online about inspiring teachers. Although I will give you the link, I will place some quotes here of what the respective teachers meant to these people.

    Kamila Shamsie, Novelist: ‘I still don’t know how she did it – but in the kindness of her manner, in a certain way she had of asking a question and then looking directly at me as though to say, “Go on, speak up: if you’re wrong, that’s OK,” she made me feel confident.’

    Trevor Baylis, Inventor : “He would show you how to drill a bit of wood, how to sharpen your tools etc. He was a very bright type, a very intelligent chap but he was a very fatherly type too”.

    Robert Peston, BBC business editor: “She’s like all great teachers – consistent.”

    Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty: “I had many who inspired me. The difference between the teachers I loved and those I didn’t was whether they treated me as a person, engaged in a debate”

    I’m sure each of these will make you reflect on your position as a teacher and on any experience which you may have had.

    So as teachers we can actually make a difference in a student’s life!

  15. In this video, Simon Sinek gave us a very inspirational talk that is not as such, directly related to education, rather business. However, his philosophy may be easily applied to teaching. Our job as teachers is to ‘sell’ our ‘product’ to the students themselves. This is where the concept of the ‘golden circle’ may be applied. If consumers buy an Apple product, it is because they believe in what Apple believe, and not in what they do. Therefore, applying this to a classroom setting, the students can be inspired to learn from their educators not for what and how they receive information but for believing in what the teachers believe that is their education. The purpose, belief, cause, why teachers exist in the first place, is what Simon Sinek believes is what ‘sells’. ‘’People do not buy what you do, but why you do it’’ as he repeatedly says during his talk. ‘’All inspired leaders…. Apple… the Wright Brothers…all think, act and communicate in the exact way…. opposite to everyone else’’. They use the approach of the ‘why’ and not ‘what’ or the ‘how’, when creating something new.

    As teachers, we can learn a lot from this approach. We should not loose focus on the ‘why’; why are we teachers? Why do we want to teach? Why do we want to be in the classroom with 25 odd students? We must not be shy to let the students know our ‘whys’ as it is the answers that can truly inspire children to learn more. Therefore, as teachers, believing in our students would more likely make the students believe in themselves.

  16. I think answering the question ‘why we do something’ is very difficult and we tend to avoid it sometimes. It is much more interesting explaining to someone what you do and how you do it then why you do it. Most of the time the ‘why’ is the most difficult because people themselves aren’t even certain of why they opt to do certain things. Answering the why can also mean admitting that you are doing something for the wrong reasons. Take for instance a job, sometimes people only take the job because it pays good or maybe it offers good holidays. It is very rare that you find someone who says that they do a certain job because its something that they enjoy doing and by doing it they get to help people get better and live a better life (example in the case of a nurse/doctor)

    As this video points out, Apple is beating all the other computer companies because it tells people why they do things and not what they do. This allows more trust from their consumers and it is the same with people.Knowing why you do something and explaining to people that you are doing it for the right reasons and not for the rewards that you can get from it will ensure trust and respect. I think that this is a good question which we should all ask ourselves, when is comes to teaching. Why have we opted for this career?

  17. Truly inspirational talk!… As I was watching this video, this particular phrase struck me.. ‘People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it’. So true!!!

    I believe that it is important to ask ‘Why?’ all the time, every year that goes by as teachers. It is very easy to allow certain things along the way to de-motivate us when we teach – however if we constantly remind ourselves why we do what we do, its not only us that benefit from it but also the students we teach.

    This talk reminded me of a video I watched related to ipads (apple) and how these are used in education. It is true, as Simon Sinek mentioned, that apple promote their products by first answering the question ‘Why’ as can be clearly seen through this video. Infact this clip starts with a teacher saying ‘I teach because when you learn you become a better person’. Hence answering the question ‘Why do you teach?’ This and other answers by other teachers lead to the great and innovative way f how to use ipads in the classroom setting. To be honest, it worked…it made me want to buy an ipad even more.

    So, yes, it is so true as teachers we know why we are in the classroom. We have human lives infront of us every day, and it is our responsibility to answer this question if we want our students to ‘buy’ the product we are giving them i.e. if they are to actually want to learn what we are delivering in the classroom.

  18. This TED talk has really made me think and reflect about my future profession as a teacher.

    Simon Sinek has posed some really intriguing questions and statements which educators can also apply to their profession. He mentioned Martin Luther king as a great leader and the apple company as inspiring, then he asked : What do these two have in common?

    In his opinion, all inspired leaders and inspired companies have these things in common: They all: ‘Think, act and communicate from the inside out’

    I think that as teachers, we need to have the same qualities. As you very well pointed out, teachers have different ‘roles and acts’. Teachers are educators – they are there to educate the students not just by transmitting the knowledge of the subject but in a holistic way… Teachers are salespersons – they are selling their knowledge, they are scientists – they experiments with different methods and methodologies in class and designers – because they design the lesson, they make a plan.In reality, teachers have an infinite number of roles.

    According to sinek, everything revolves around 3 simple questions: What? How? and Why? According to him, a lot of leading companies know what they do, most of them also know how they do it…but very few ask themselves why… what he is trying to say here, is that as teachers, we need to ask ourselves : Why? What’s my purpose of being a teacher? What’s my cause and my belief? Why am I in this classroom?

    I very much agree that as teachers we must always have an answer to the why… an inspiring teacher educates from the heart, as future teachers, we need to keep in mind that our students will sense our passion for teaching while also being aware that our charisma, our personality and the way we educate will inspire and affect students. It is our responsibility to make an impeccable impact on our students’ life.

  19. I totally agree that a teacher must be an actor. One can look at these type of talks, even like Salman Khan’s talk, and one notices that while he’s talking, he is acting. I’m not a fan of speeches, but the acting during their talks helped me to continue watching the video. We must think as inspiring leaders, which means that first we must think and ask ourselves why are we acting like that. From what I once read on the Maltese saint St. George Preca, he used to say that one must think of what will or may happen after doing the action. Therefore we must always think of why are we going to do our action.

    Moreover, I totally agree with one of your comments, where you said that “a teacher has to be human first and foremost“. Many of us may get disappointed as they fail to do part of the lesson. As time goes by, we may also have students who will have examinations after being taught by us. And as Simon Sinek said, “How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume?” What happens to our moral if they do not succeed? Of course, the teacher is going to feel sad for this news, but we must keep in mind, that even though the students may not have learned the subject, they still learned our life examples and our behaviour in the classroom. And that’s what matters most! We need to teach subjects to students, but first of all, we must teach them to be social humans.

  20. It just an amazing speech by Simon Sinek. His examples and arguments are so inspiring. In fact I conclude that most probably students start loving a subject not because the subject matter itself is intrinsically appealing but because the teachers are inspiring.
    Why are you teaching this subject and not any other subject? Answer this question and first start by trying to make the students like you and by doing that they will start to love the subject. We love the subjects that we teach because most probably we believed in what our own teachers believed in.
    An inspiring teacher is certainly a gift.

  21. After listening to Simon Sinek idea of the golden circle; the WHY, HOW, WHAT and reading all of the above comments, I believe that the most important question to ask is “WHY did I chose to become a teacher?”
    Teachers have the privilege to prepare their students with the right tools with which they can succeed at life and create the foundations on which they will build the rest of their lives. Thus, being a teacher takes great patience, stamina, self-sacrifice, intelligence, humor, caring, heart, generosity, etc.
    I do agree with Simon Sinek about the marketing process of Apple products. It is not enough to have a good product; likewise it is not enough to be an excellent and prepared teacher if I am not able to inspire and motivate my students in class. The traditional role of the teacher is being challenged, thus it is no longer about delivering the lesson. The teacher should instil in the students the notion that the goals set by him/her, are just for them who believe what s/he believes as a teacher.

  22. And yet again another inspiring talk by TED talk .. While hearing Mr. Sinek’s talk, I couldn’t help but ask the same question to myself; why do I want to be a teacher? Actually this same question came up in one of the first lectures I had this year. One of our lecturers asked us this very same question and my answer was that I wanted to be a role model for the students, I still do. Therefore, as I see it, the best way to become an effective teacher is to make sure that you transfer your passion and love for the subject to the students in the classroom. In that way, you’re transferring whatever you believe and love to others. Mr. Sinek’s idea of the golden circle makes complete sense when it comes to delivering whatever you believe in, and even though he speaks about companies, this theory can totally be used in a classroom environment. Can a teacher be a leader? Can the students eventually start acquiring knowledge because they seriously believe and love whatever you have managed to transfer to them? I think this is possible as long as the teacher keeps in mind why he or she is teaching that particular subject in the first place and gradually moving towards How to teach and What to teach ..

  23. I totally agree that Simon Sinek’s TED talk is a good allegory to teachers and teaching. His examples of the Apple company, who although the same as every other computer company, always wins because they are so innovative year after year, Martin Luther King, who although a normal man, led the Civil Rights Movement and the Wright brothers who powered man flight, show us that it is those who inspire who ultimately succeed. Sinek argues that the underlying pattern for their achievement is that they all ‘act, think and communicate’. He comes up with the concept of ‘the golden circle’, which includes the following three questions ‘why?’, ‘how?’ and ‘what?’. Sinek argues that few people know the purpose of what they’re doing (the ‘why?’), only those who are successful and able to inspire others know the reason why they’re doing it. The latter are able to ‘think, act and communicate from inside out.’

    A quote which I found really interesting is the following: ‘[e]verything we do we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.’ This is what we, as teachers, need to do – challenge the status quo. If others teach in the traditional manner, we should not be afraid to teach differently as long as it is for the best of the students. Another quote which I really liked is ‘[p]eople buy why you do it […] If you don’t know why you do what you do […] how will you get people [to] want to be a part of what it is that you do.’ If we, as teachers, do not believe what we teach, how can we expect students to believe in it, to engage their attention and to motivate them? First we want to inspire the students if we want them to learn. Being in pursuit of the result, in this case of scores, does not work. We need to ‘sell’ education to the students in the right way. Sinek claims that how you sell something is extremely important. He gives us the example of Tivo. Although it is the single highest quality on the market, it is a commercial failure. It wasn’t launched in the correct way. People’s reaction to it was not a positive one because the company focused only on the ‘what’ not the ‘why’ when they were trying to sell it. On the other hand, Dr. King, a great orator in America, ‘didn’t go round telling people what needed to change in America’, but ‘he went around and told people what he believed […] People who believed what he believed took his cause, and they made it their own’. And this is what we must do. We must make students believe in education and take responsibility for their own learning. In other words, we must promote autonomous and lifelong learning.

    Sinek also makes a distinction between ‘leaders’ and ‘those who lead’. He argues that ‘[l]eaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us’. He concludes his speech by claiming that ‘[w]e follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to […] We follow those who lead […] for ourselves’. And this is what we ultimately want of our students. We want them to love learning, to immerse themselves in it. Aiming for scores or to cover the syllabus will not get us there. It is when we know why we are teaching what we are teaching that students are inspired and ready to learn.

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