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Leading With Why – The Power Of Purpose

Jeff Sesol has been entrepreneurial for over 30 years. Over that time, he has built and sold several companies, but more importantly he has helped many companies grow to the next level as a Business Coach, Executive Coach and Leadership Coach.

Executive Contributor Jeffrey Sesol

Imagine walking into a room and lighting it up with a single sentence. That's the kind of magic Simon Sinek introduced in his game-changing book, "Start With Why." Sinek's philosophy isn't just a leadership strategy; it's a revelation about human nature. He suggests that great leaders inspire action by communicating the 'why' – the purpose behind their actions. This concept, deeply rooted in the biology of human decision-making, connects with the emotional part of our brain, the limbic system, responsible for feelings like trust and loyalty.

Lightbulb glowing brightly.

The essence of 'Why', what makes it so powerful. We must understand how our brain processes certain things to answer that question. The limbic system, our emotional epicenter, doesn't deal with language but with feelings. It's where trust, loyalty, and decisions are born. When leaders articulate their 'why,' they're not just sharing information; they're connecting on an emotional level. It's like telling a story that resonates with the soul, not just the mind. We often think our decisions are logical, but they're usually driven by emotions. The 'why' speaks to these emotions, providing a deeper reason for action that logic alone can't offer. It's the difference between buying a car because of its specs and buying it because it feels right. When leaders communicate their 'why,' they do more than instruct; they inspire. This sense of purpose ignites passion and motivation, turning routine tasks into parts of a larger, meaningful journey. Trust and loyalty are the holy grail of leadership, and they're built on the foundation of shared beliefs and values, by expressing their 'why,' leaders create a bond of trust. It's like building a bridge between their vision and the hearts of their followers.

The first step is introspection. Leaders need to understand their own 'why' – their core beliefs and values. This isn't a mission statement you can whip up in a meeting; it's a deep, personal journey to the heart of your leadership; once you know your 'why,' the challenge is to communicate it effectively. It's about storytelling creating narratives that resonate with your team's values and aspirations. It's not just about the words you choose; it's about the emotion and conviction behind them. One common misconception is that the 'why' is just a marketing tool or a catchy slogan. It's much more profound than that. It's the essence of your leadership and your organization's identity. In a world of overhyped marketing and corporate jargon, some may view the 'why' with skepticism.

Overcoming this cynicism requires authenticity. It's not about selling an idea; it's about living it. It's about inspiring change, driving progress, and creating a legacy. Communicating the 'why' is not just a passing trend in leadership; it is an enduring practice with significant implications for success. Purpose-driven leadership has the power to inspire action, build trust and loyalty, and motivate teams to accomplish great things. As you continue your leadership journey, remember the power of 'why.' It's the secret sauce that can transform your leadership from mundane to extraordinary. Find your 'why,' share it passionately, and watch as it becomes the beacon that guides your team to new heights. Remember, people don't follow you for what you do; they follow you for why you do it. So, what's your 'why'?

The human brain is wired to seek meaning and purpose. Neurological studies show that when individuals understand the 'why' behind their actions, they are more engaged and motivated. The limbic system, which processes emotions and drives, does not have the capacity for language, explaining why emotional connections are often hard to articulate but deeply felt. Have you ever wondered why some leaders can inspire a room with just a few words, while others can't get a spark of enthusiasm, even with a fireworks display of rhetoric? The secret lies not in what they say, but in tapping into the brain's hardwired desire for meaning and purpose; understanding the 'why' ignites engagement and motivation.

Understanding the 'why' is like turning on the lights in a dark room – suddenly, everything makes sense. When leaders articulate the purpose behind tasks, goals, or the organization's mission, they're providing a powerful motivator. It's no longer about just doing a job; it's about being part of a larger story, a meaningful journey. Studies have shown that employees who find meaning in their work are more satisfied, more productive, and less likely to leave their jobs. It's the difference between feeling like a cog in a machine and being an essential character in an exciting novel. When the 'why' is clear, mundane tasks become part of a grand adventure. Trust is built when actions align with words, especially when those words resonate with our limbic system. Leaders who consistently communicate and act on their 'why' foster an environment of trust. It's like having a friend who always shows up when they say they will – over time, you just start to believe in them. Loyalty is an emotional commitment. It goes beyond rational analysis. When leaders connect with their team on an emotional level, when they share a 'why' that resonates, they're laying the foundation for deep loyalty. It's like cheering for your home team; you're invested not just in their success but in their story, their purpose.

Companies like Patagonia and TOMS Shoes don't just sell products; they sell a vision, a purpose. Their 'why' is clear and compelling, and it's reflected in everything they do. This alignment between purpose and action is what draws customers and keeps them loyal.Think of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. They didn't just lead movements; they inspired legacies. Their 'why' was so powerful that it transcended language and logic, tapping into the emotional core of millions. Understanding and communicating the 'why' is not just a leadership strategy; it's a fundamental human need. As a leader, your challenge is to find your 'why' and share it in a way that resonates with the limbic system of your team. Remember, people might forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. So, start with 'why,' and watch as it transforms your leadership and your organization. Imagine a ship where every sailor knows not just their duties but the grand adventure they're embarking on.

This is the essence of communicating the 'why' in leadership. It's about creating a shared sense of purpose, transforming a group of individuals into a unified team with a common goal. Let's explore how articulating the 'why' can inspire teams and drive organizational success with a dash of humor and a lot of heart.

When leaders communicate their 'why,' they're doing more than just delegating tasks, they're inviting their team on an epic journey. It's like saying, "We're not just selling software; we're revolutionizing the way people work." This approach turns mundane tasks into parts of a grand mission, making every team member feel like a crucial character in an exciting story. Organizations with a clear 'why' are like magnets – they attract talent, customers, and success. A study by EY and Harvard Business Review underscores this, revealing that companies with a well-articulated purpose integrated into their strategy see higher growth rates. It's not just about making money; it's about making a difference, and that's a powerful motivator. Purpose-driven companies often outperform their peers not because they try harder but because they're aligned better. Their 'why' acts as a north star, guiding every decision and strategy. It's like having a secret ingredient in your business recipe that makes everything taste better.

When a leader communicates the 'why,' it creates a sense of belonging among team members, it's like being part of a special club where everyone is united by a common purpose. This sense of belonging fosters collaboration, loyalty, and a positive work environment. Understanding the 'why' behind their work boosts employees' motivation and engagement. It's the difference between mindlessly pushing a boulder up a hill and passionately climbing a mountain to reach a breathtaking view. When employees see the bigger picture, their work becomes more meaningful and fulfilling. Communicating the 'why' can sometimes be mistaken for spouting inspirational fluff. The key is to ground the 'why' in reality – it should be ambitious but achievable, inspirational but genuine. It's not about painting rosy pictures; it's about showing the real impact of the work. The 'why' should be a consistent thread running through all communications and actions. It's not a one-time speech at an annual meeting; it's a message that's echoed in every email, meeting, and company update. Inconsistency in communicating the 'why' is like a GPS that keeps changing the destination – it's confusing and leads nowhere.

The importance of Integrating the 'why' into daily operations. It can be as simple as starting meetings with a reminder of the team's purpose or sharing stories that highlight the impact of the work. It's about keeping the flame of purpose alive in the day-to-day grind. The old adage that actions speak louder than words is especially true when it comes to the 'why.' Leaders must ensure that their actions and decisions align with the communicated purpose. This alignment builds credibility and reinforces the 'why' in the minds of the team. A compelling 'why' not only motivates current employees but also attracts new talent and customers. People want to be associated with organizations that stand for something. It's like being drawn to a person with a captivating story – you just want to be part of it. When team members are fully invested in the 'why,' they become brand ambassadors. Their enthusiasm and commitment can be infectious, spreading the company's message far and wide. It's like having a team of enthusiastic cheerleaders for your brand.

Beware: Introducing a strong 'why' can sometimes meet resistance, especially in well-established organizations. Overcoming this resistance requires patience, persistence, and a lot of listening. It's about showing, not just telling, the benefits of embracing the 'why.' As the organization evolves, so should it's 'why.' Leaders must regularly revisit and, if necessary, revise their 'why' to ensure it remains relevant and resonant. It's like updating your GPS with the latest maps – essential for staying on the right path.

The journey of leadership is more than a series of actions and decisions; it's a voyage guided by the powerful beacon of 'why.' Understanding and effectively communicating your 'why' is not merely a leadership tactic; it is the essence of building a successful, purpose-driven team or organization. This 'why' is the emotional and motivational core that connects you with your team, aligning your collective efforts with a deeper, more meaningful purpose. In the realm of leadership, the 'why' transcends being a mere component of strategy; it is the very soul of your organizational identity. It infuses your strategies with depth and resonance, making them not only effective but also impactful. As a leader, embracing your 'why' involves delving beyond superficial tactics to uncover the profound purpose that propels your organization forward.

As you continue on your leadership path, I urge you to embrace a moment of introspection. Reflect deeply on your 'why.' What is the core belief or value that drives you? What is the deeper purpose behind your leadership? This reflection is not a one-time exercise but an ongoing journey of discovery and clarity. Once you have grasped your 'why,' the next step is to communicate it – clearly, passionately, and consistently. Let this 'why' be the narrative that guides your decisions and actions. It should be the story that you tell every day, through every decision you make, every strategy you implement, and every interaction you have with your team and stakeholders. Remember, the true power of leadership lies not in the mechanics of 'what' you do or 'how' you do it, but in the purposeful clarity of 'why' you do it. People are inspired not by the mere actions of a leader but by the compelling reasons behind those actions. They connect with the 'why,' the purpose that gives meaning to your actions. Let the 'why' be your compass in the vast ocean of leadership. It is the guiding light that illuminates your path and that of your team, leading you all towards new horizons of success and fulfillment.

As you chart your course, keep asking the most powerful question a leader can ask: "Why do we do what we do?" The answer to this question is the key to unlocking inspirational leadership, the kind that leaves a lasting impact and drives true success.

So, as you step forward, remember: the 'why' is not just an element of your leadership; it is the heart of it. It's what gives life and meaning to your strategies, transforming them from mere plans into powerful missions. Embrace your 'why,' share it with the world, and watch as it becomes the driving force behind your leadership legacy. Let it guide you to create not just a successful business but a meaningful movement that resonates with people and inspires them to join you on your journey. Your 'why' is your story, your beacon, and your legacy – cherish it, nurture it, and let it shine.

Leadership is a journey of continual learning. Helping you and your people figure our your why and then communicating your why clearly from your heart will create an incredible culture that will transcend well beyond your wildest visions.

We can help! Pull the Chute Leadership Training provides ongoing coaching to help your current and next group of leaders grow and develop into True Leaders. Help them figure out their WHY. Set up an appointment, and let us help take your company to new heights - Grow your People, Grow your Company.

Email us at or call us at 615-572-9500.

Read more from Jeffrey Sesol


Jeffrey Sesol, Business, Executive and Leadership Coach

Jeff Sesol has been entrepreneurial for over 30 years. Over that time, he has built and sold several companies, but more importantly he has helped many companies grow to the next level as a Business Coach, Executive Coach and Leadership Coach. Jeff leverages the experiences and lessons learned over the years as he grew his own companies to develop the ‘Grow your People, Grow your Company’ methodology that empowers your people while creating a culture that is supportive and appreciative.



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