The What, the How, and the Why

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

I recently stumbled upon this Ted Talk. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, states that he has identified why some organizations and individuals have been successful while others with similar talents and resources failed to live up to expectations. He cites Apple, The Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. as examples of the former. Simply put, great leaders inspire action by first identifying why they do what they do. They start with their purpose. The how and the what come after that.

Here is the video.

This seems very applicable to schools and their leaders. Why do we do what we do? What motivates us to get up in the morning and go to work? These are important questions in my school, as we start to relook at our vision and mission during the initial implementation of professional learning communities. This process has had its ups and downs, but I don’t think we would be truly moving forward if we weren’t experiencing a bit of a bumpy ride.

Where is your school at in the process of developing a vision and mission? How are you selling the “why” to your customers, namely your students, families and community? Please share in the comments.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

One thought on “The What, the How, and the Why”

  1. I saw this video a couple of months back as well. I wish I had viewed it a few years ago as I went through this process in my last school district. I just purchased the book, “Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap,” for my Building Leadership Team as we have picked developing a Professional Learning Community philosophy as our number one priority and goal for the District Strategic Plan. As you probably already know Matt, one of the first things you need to do as a PLC is develop a Vision Statement. It guides you in so many ways, and if written properly, it can make all the difference in your performance and decision making process. After we finish the book as a Leadership Team, and if we decide it is an excellent choice for everyone, we will do the first all staff book read in many years. Hopefully this will all bring us to a unified definition of what PLC means, and as we develop our Vision Statement, I am sure that I will share Simon’s Ted Talk, as he does an excellent job of summing up what a vision statement should be. I will let you know how it goes and I will probably have to share my own post on the details of the process.


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