As a college student, being a leader may not be your main priority. With all of your classes, clubs, and attempts to maintain a social life, presiding over a group of students may not fit into your planner for the week. However, leadership skills are the #1 transferable skill desired by employers, and knowing how to inspire others can help you progress in your future career. Luckily, you can gain leadership skills in many ways…not all of which are highly time consuming. From a group project, to your part-time job, to volunteering, you can choose a way to develop leadership skills that matches with your interests and available time.

So, how can you become not only a leader, but one that inspires?

You can read online for days about the best ways to be a leader. There are oversimplified tasks listed like “always keep promises” or “be confident”. While these skills are important for leadership, being a good person is not enough to truly lead, because there is a difference between leaders and those who lead.

Leadership expert, Simon Sinek, believes there are leaders with authority that we are forced to follow, such as a manager or boss. Alternatively, there are those who lead, people that we follow because we are inspired. The defining difference between leaders and those who lead is the way their message is organized.

The golden circle is the way Sinek explains how items or ideas are marketed.


Most people talk from the outside-in, from what-how-why.

Starting from the “what”, people talk about what the organization does. The “how” is the plan for the organization. Finally, the “why” is the reason the organization was formed and their mission. An example of a typical use of this strategy would be: “We sell computers, the computers are easy to use and are beautiful, buy our computers”. Most products or ideas are sold in this format. However, the message is uninspiring.

An example of a company that works from the inside-out is Apple. Consider this example: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo… The way we challenge the status quo is by making our product beautifully designed…Want to buy one?”

In order to truly inspire people, you must work from the inside-out. Start by explaining your mission, why do you get up in the morning, the goals you have. Then explain how you plan on accomplishing these goals. Finally, talk about the what. People will follow because they have common interests and believe in your ability to accomplish those passions.

The model of the golden circle can apply to everyday life. For example, that group essay that you have to write with four people by next week? Start by telling the group about why you are passionate about the topic, then explain how you want the group to write the essay, and finish by asking for their support. Members will actively engage in the writing process because they are excited for the mission of the paper, not that they have to write 5-7 pages.

As a student or simply as an individual, you have the ability to spark excitement and initiative. As Simon Sinek says, “people do not follow what you do, they follow why you do it.”


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