Simon Sinek on How to Be a Better Teacher By Not Being the Expert

In Chapter 2 of 23 in his 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers "How Are You Becoming a Better Teacher?" To Sinek, teaching is as much teaching what you do not know as it is teaching what you do know. This approach gives him an opportunity to better engage his students, learn from their own experiences, and integrate the sharing into his teaching. It is less about being an expert and more about being a curious learner. Simon Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. Sinek is the author of two books, "Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don't" and "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". He is a public speaker, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a Brandeis University graduate.


Erik Michielsen: How are you becoming a better teacher?

Simon Sinek: Teaching, like anything, is the art of sharing not just what you know but what you don’t know. I think I’m becoming a better teacher because I’m becoming a better student where I used to walk into a classroom or any kind of teaching opportunity to tell them what I know, and now I come into it to share what I know with the hope of hearing what they know because I wanna learn too. So I actually show up to a class with the desire to learn. And so, the only reason to share whatever thoughts, or ideas, or knowledge I have is so that together we can grow, and it has made me a better teacher for sure. I think all the best teachers are the best students. Anybody who thinks they know everything is missing out because you don’t. It’s the same thing I hate about people who refer to themselves as experts. “I’m an expert in X.” I was like, “Really? Really?” There’s so much more to learn. And so, even in my own disciplines, I don’t consider myself an expert in leadership, or inspiration, or whatever you wanna label it. I’m a student of leadership. I’m a student to what inspires. I don’t think I know everything, in fact, out of everything I know, I know this much, and so that to me keeps me curious.

Erik Michielsen: Have you found that there’s a difference between teaching college students and teaching adult learners?

Simon Sinek: No. There are people who have a desire to learn and those people who have a desire to make the grade, and you’ll find them everywhere. There are people who have desire to advance the greater good, or advance the cause, or advance the company, and there are people who have just the desire to make money. And the people who show up with curiosity and the desire to learn will always make better students. The ones who only wanna make the grades are pains in the asses because they complain about everything, and they throw their teammates under the bus because they’re “hurting their grade”, and it’s the same in a company. Somebody who only is in for the cash, they’ll throw their teammates under the bus because they’ve don’t wanna ruin their bonus, or get the credit, or—it’s the same. It’s the same.