14 Oct, 2018

The Authentic WHY of Leadership

Why do you do what you do?

Why, in fact, do you do anything? We spend the biggest proporition of our working lives thinking about what we do and how we do it (and, as a leader, also who will do it) and, as a result, we lose sight of Why we are doing it.

Why? Is a massively powerful question – and, when you know the answer, it gives you power and energy and drive you forwards. Simon Sinek’s book The Power of Why is well worth a read as he has laid this out really well. Being clear on the vision you are aiming for, the reason you do what you do, makes even the most mundane step worthwhile and – dare I say it – joyful.

Not all Whys are created the same, of course. There are different types of Why and this shows up particularly in leadership. When I’m working in organisations, I am always asking people why they do what they do and I get answers back in two main groups:

The Extrinsic Why – this is where you are seeking things outside yourself. You want approval or recognition or fame or money. This gets people so far but, once it is achieved, then what?

You are finally at the salary you wanted. You’ve bought the fast car. You are living in your dream house. What do you do now?

Added to this, no one in your team is inspired by a Why of this nature. It won’t motivate them to help you achieve it.

The Intrinsic Why is where the magic happens. An intrinsic Why is connected to your purpose and the reason you get up in the morning. You want to make a difference. You want to be better every single day. You want to inspire other people.

These are the Why’s which are authentic and can last a lifetime.

They work for your organisation too. What different would it make if, every day, you and your team were looking at what they do with the thought of “We are making a difference to every customer we serve.”

In the course of writing my upcoming book, I interviewed Alistair McAuley, MD of AkzoNobel and he showed that he understands how important it is to understand the Why of the people in his organisation – and he himself has a really powerful Why.

In every interview for the book, this topic came up and one of the common themes that emerged was the desire to inspire other people and to bring out the Why in other people. Here is Drew Brown, MD of Dominion Hospitality, talking about his Why.

The ability to inspire others, starts with Why. Do you understand what brings every member of your team to work every day? When did you last ask them?

You may well find that, if you did ask, some of them might not even know. Others will only be focused on their extrinsic why – they come to work to earn money. Ask Why again and you’ll start to go deeper. Maybe they have a family at home, or they have a desire to start a charity or they are saving up to climb Mount Everest. Ask Why that inspires them and you’ll be starting to understand the authenticity in them and, as a leader, inspiring them to be their best selves.

How clear are you on YOUR authentic Why? Can you think of someone near you who has an Authentic Why that is so strong it lights up everyone around them? How clear are you on Why your organisation does what it does?

Post your comments below and share your why to inspire others reading this article. Join the debate. 


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