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What is your 'Leadership Why'?

Updated: Feb 15, 2021


More than 10 years ago Simon Sinek made a TEDx speech about how great leaders inspire action. Sinek argued that leaders and organisations need to start with their ‘why’ when communicating about what they do and how they do it. You might remember the famous quote from the teaching: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”


The conclusion from Sinek is that organisations have to start with the why before they go on to describing what they do and what they sell.


In my view it is exactly the same when it comes to leadership.


Quite often the leaders I am coaching never thought about why they are a leader. Maybe it was just a the natural next step. Maybe it was the only way of progression in the company they are working for and so it just happened. Maybe they always wanted to be a leader because of the status and benefits. Or maybe they felt it was expected of them.

But how do you create followership as a leader, if you don’t know why you do it? Remember: People don’t ‘buy’ what you do, but why you do it.


In my coaching I often ask what Leadership Legacy the leader wants to be remembered for. Similar to the first exercise in the book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, I ask them to write down what they would like any team member, who has ever worked for them to say about them when they are not here anymore. Or less dramatic – when they cannot hear them.


That starts an honest and authentic conversation about, what I call the 'Leadership Why’.


I am amazed with the authenticity and reflection the exercise fosters. I am also amazed with the things that start to happen when leaders are articulating their ‘Leadership Why’ to themselves and to their team. They begin to lead from a purpose outside of themselves.


In a split second the leaders start focusing less on what they do as a leaders and how they will do it and more on why they do it. Their focus is less on the leadership manual and more on the authentic purpose driven leadership. That shift is also a shift from leadership being a mental exercise of things you have to do and a thousand thoughts about how to do it, to a more honest and connected reason for being.


When leaders start communicating their Why, we can feel it and we believe it.

Then we follow them. A leaders's why, that is deeply routed and authentic of nature sparks the physical, emotional and mental energy of the people around him/her and that is where followership, motivation and engagement rest.


Have you thought about your Leadership Why or what Leadership Legacy you are leaving behind? It is never too late to start!


Get in touch, if you are interested to learn more about the exercise and start reflecting on your own Leadership Legacy.

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