Leading with Why

Why is “Why” so important?

It seems fitting that if I’m going to explain my brand of “Leading with Why” I should tell you why “why” is so important.

Take a quick look at this email sent out by the CEO of CP+B, Andrew Keller. The first few sections are enlightening.

We currently live in a connected world. I know, that statement is probably as surprising to you as it is to me. (read sarcasm)

But it is important to understand the depth that we are all connected, because it will fundamentally change how you view the world, buy the products that you buy, and build the relationships that surround you. WARNING: If you sit around and think about it too much it will give you a headache. The little masochist inside of me has arisen several times to pound away on my temples as I’ve pondered this thought.

“Why” permeates every aspect of our lives. It has sent men to the far corners of the world. It has built monuments and discovered cures for the most potent diseases. It can birth our most amazing creations and expose us to the true depths of our depravity.

Before I go too far, try this exercise and explore your own “whys”.

Look out! I’m about to hit you with something profound. Why did you choose the thing that you chose in the excercise?

See? “Why” is everywhere. You can debate with others your “why”. But, what isn’t debatable, is that our “whys” are unique to each of us. Our “whys” are what make us who we are. They build on each other like Legos, forming our personalities, our choices, our passions, our mistakes, our regrets, etc.

“Why” is important because it engages us. It injects value and meaning into our environment. In our socially connected world, we are now able to broadcast our own versions of “why” to the masses, whether they be positive or negative, the repercussions of which we read about on a daily basis. Think cyberbullying, a powerful example of how “whys” can lead people down the wrong road. But also think about Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a charity for childhood cancer research started by a 4-year old girl with cancer who, when she was told that her outlook was grim, turned to her parents and asked to start a lemonade stand to raise money to give to doctors so they could help other kids like her. In the first week she raised more than $2,000 and passed away 4 years later knowing that she had raised more than $1 million.

Here-in lies the rub. We, as homo sapiens, crave “why” like a drug only available in dark alleys. When it is readily available and correctly applied we can build empires with MacGyver-like ingenuity. And, when we can’t find that “why”, we dismiss it or try it once in a futile attempt to discover something and, ultimately, move on.

Our “whys” can be dangerous or uplifting, but they are our own. Imagine the implications for a leader with a solid grasp on “why”. I hope this made you better. See you next time…

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