Simon Sinek is the author of 3 best-selling books including the one that put him on the map, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. His TED talk on the same subject is the third most watched TED talk of all time. He resonates with a wide and diverse audience because his storytelling approach is both comfortingly familiar and inspiring in its colour and detail. Listening to him talk it wouldn’t matter if he were discussing the topic of leadership or talking about weaving daisy chains, you find yourself completely immersed in his story regardless.

Listening to Simon speak is like having him be your personal tour guide on a street you’ve walked down a hundred times before, but you quickly discover you’ve never noticed half the buildings and you’ve never spoken to the people who live there.

Your tour begins at the street corner. He points down the street to a building in the distance, it’s a little way down the street so you can’t quite make out any of its detail, but you have a focal point in mind as you start your stroll. This is his starting frame. He likes you to have a sense of the destination before the tour begins, so you know where you’re going. It’s an anchor that gives nothing of the wonder of the tour away.

One side of the street is residential homes, he’ll introduce you to some of the characters who live there. The other side, businesses. Simon doesn’t just stride off in a straight line heading down a single footpath, he’s going to criss-cross back and forth as you go, pausing on key architectural details, (the key points he is trying to make from a business and leadership perspective), or to chat with residents (the narratives that bring his points to life and allows you to relate).

This is the magic of a Simon Sinek talk, it’s the mingling of people’s stories, punctuated by the business relevance, key phrases and supporting facts, before taking you straight back into another story that propels the over-arching narrative forward. It’s like he knows you won’t fully appreciate the beautiful brickwork he’s just shown you until you view it up close taking in each brick’s rough imperfection as well as from across the street where you’ll see the pattern emerge of all those hundreds of bricks nestled together.

Eventually after many meandering street crossings you arrive at the destination he pointed at from the start of the street, you glance back at the path you’ve just walked, you take in the destination in all its colourful glory, and you get it. You see the street as you’ve never seen it before. A connectedness between the people and the businesses you would not have otherwise perceived.

It’s clear Simon doesn’t want to be the feature of the tour, but he carefully deploys some simple tools that he uses throughout the tour to ensure you are picking up the key points, to make sure he draws attention to the detail you need to absorb. He does this through the carefully and subtly deployed tactics of visual sign posts, volume variation, perfectly timed pauses and repetition of key lines. He incorporates simple, usually hand drawn models just where it is necessary to ensure that you can see what he sees. He will increase in volume in the thick of a colourful discussion with a local resident only to drop his volume back to a whisper once across the street to summarise why that person’s story matters. He’ll pause before he paraphrases back to you the point he just made, and to make sure that key phrase stays with you long after the tour has ended, he immediately says it again with slow conviction.

In fact, his conviction is one of his most stand out qualities. Like a great tour guide he doesn’t say ‘I think…’ or any other kind of vague ‘maybe’ ‘kinda’ non-committal, loose metaphor. He talks in definites. And you believe him.

Come for a stroll with me now down ‘Simon Sinek Avenue’ as I break down his storytelling style in visual form.

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