Start with Why

Why does Team Rubicon exist? Why are its members so dedicated? Volunteer Gina Bartolomeo tackles the tough questions and then some.

I’ve been told I ask a lot of questions. Always in search for answers, my favorite question is “Why?”

I find “Why?” a bit more easier to tackle than say, “How?” Especially in business or disaster response. How do you make a profit? Sell more than you spend. How do you strategize responding to a small incident? Well, you can start with the Planning P. Recently, I was introduced to professor and thinker Simon Sinek, who echoes similar sentiment.

Every day, more than 30,000 members of Team Rubicon remain on standby. Why?

Every day, more than 30,000 members of Team Rubicon remain on standby. Why?

Author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Sinek introduces his theory of the Golden Circle, how most leaders start on the outside of the circle—the what. The what is what a company or organization does—Honda sells automobiles. Inside that is the how – how is something different or better? Why buy a car from Honda over Ford? The why is the inside of the circle, why a company or organization does what it does, more than simply making a profit. Those leaders who start from the inside – the why – are the exceptional few great leaders.


As I thought about this, Team Rubicon came to mind, and I started to think about what sets TR apart from similar organizations. Sinek talks about the notion of why being someone’s purpose; meaning, why do you get out of bed every morning or why does your organization exist?

After spending a week at Team Rubicon’s 2015 Leadership Conference, I finally figured out why. Or, at least I think I did. As over 200 volunteer leaders who devote a large majority of their life to volunteerism surrounded me, I asked, “Why?” Why am I here? Why are they here? Why is Team Rubicon so addicting?” Well, we can start with the culture of TR.

200 leaders in TR spent an extended weekend in Chicago for the Annual Leadership Conference.

200 leaders spent an extended weekend in Chicago for TR’s Annual Leadership Conference.

A business focused on the why built by Jake Wood, William McNulty, and many others in search of purpose and meaning, TR doesn’t start with the what. The basic concept of altruism, heading to a disaster zone to help provide relief without expecting anything in return is the why that inspires many volunteers and employees to put service before self. The idea of the why is a game-changer, and it’s what sets TR apart from any other nonprofit and disaster response organization. The notions of purpose, meaning, and altruism are why Team Rubicon exists and why we boast over 30,000 volunteers.

The shared principles and ethics that led many to join military service, civil service, and other service-driven careers, connect us all as members. Why we as volunteers ignore the piling work emails, the unread messages, and the overdue school work to devote hours to a Power Point deck on how to improve the user experience. It’s why employees work on weekends and well past midnight, sleep on cots, couches, and on the floors of their office, as a large scale operation kicks off. It’s why we all make many sacrifices in our lives. Our why, as TR members and volunteers, is the culture that drives us, inspires us, and makes us unique.

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