When was the last time you asked yourself the question, “Why do I lead?”
Notice the question is not how you lead or what you lead but WHY you lead. What is the ultimate outcome or purpose that drives you to carry on despite the many challenges that accompany leadership?
If you don’t know the answer to that question, maybe it’s time you give it some thought. The answer matters because it will manifest itself in the choices you make and the way you interact with the people you encounter every day. Without an accurate, internal compass, you may easily drift off course.
Your “why” establishes your intention.
Another reason to know your “why” is so that you can lose your title without losing yourself. Think for a moment about how you would feel if tomorrow you were removed from your current role. Would you lose your sense of direction until someone gives you a new title? Do you have a deeper purpose that will allow you to move forward? Leadership is not defined by your place in an organizational chart, it is created by who you are.
Your “why” strengthens your identity.
Your “why” will give you the courage to carry on when things get difficult. Name a great leader that inspires you. The power of their story is most likely grounded in how they handled adversity and how this shaped their leadership. It is in the tough times that our leadership has the greatest potential to make a difference.
Your “why” increases your impact.
Your “why” may be the only reason people will attend to your influence. People have a keen sense for recognizing what motivates a leader. Over time they do a pretty good job of figuring you out. If your intention is grounded in understanding, service and mutual success then there is a pretty good chance you will be heard. Getting that next promotion? Not so much.
Your “why” determines your influence.
So why do I lead?
To release the positive potential in individuals and organizations.
That’s my “why”. It works for me because it always applies no matter the context or circumstance. I’ve greatly simplified it over the years but this has always been the core theme and I understand the underlying meaning behind the words. I don’t always live up to it but I always come back to it and I try to make sure everyone recognizes this motivation in my words and actions.
Your “why” may read differently or contain a lot more words and ideas. There is no right answer. There is only your answer. The important thing is that you have an answer.
I recommend you grab a notebook and write as many endings to the following sentence stem as come to mind. Write quickly, without stopping or judging. When you are done, read through the list to find a core theme that resonates with your heart and your mission.
I lead because…
Now you have a “why” that is bigger than any job, title or opinion. A “why” that is bigger…than you.
Please share your “why” or feel free to contribute more positive reasons for knowing why you lead.
Purpose is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s needs. – Frederick Buechner