The most important question in life and leadership

“Why?”

This is just crazy! We have so many books about this, the internet is full of blogs, tweets, articles, and whatever else there is out there about it, and still we don’t get it!

The most important question is: “Why?”

…or more specifically: “Why do we exist?”

I coach executives and leaders in all segments everyday to improve the health of their organizations and leadership teams. I am amazed how quickly things shift as soon as the “Why do we exist?” question is answered. As simple as it is, I see leaders consistently overlook it, assume it is clear when it is not, or that the people they lead even still believe it–let alone remember it.

What I see in leaders with the most influence is the same thing I see in athletes at the peak of the performance: they have absolute clarity about why they do what they do–what their core purpose it.

First off, a core purpose is simple, not about you, money or things. It is not a goal. The core purpose is the absolute reason for why you exist. In other words, what difference do you or your organization make.

In a new organization the core purpose typically lives within entrepreneur and is often expressed through actions not words. It is there like a beating heart, but few people think about it consciously. On the other hand, it seems that many older organizations have simply forgotten about their purpose all together. As they grow larger and larger, their lack of organizational health stresses their core purpose–like heart disease. People stop believing it even matters are cynical towards it, and actually behave in ways that harm it. Many organizations begin to define their size as a measure of their success, when they are mere moments from an organizational heart attack.

The Lego company experienced this very thing. After near bancruptcy Lego’s new CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, stepped in and assessed the most important problem was that: “Lego had lost it’s way.” He said the the first thing they had to do was answer, “Why do we exist?”

Now they are back to the top! (believe me i know! both my boys and girls consider themselves “master builders!” I practically own stock I have so many lego pieces in my house. ha!)

Knowing “why” enables you see “where.” Purpose must come before strategy.

In leadership… in your organization… in your personal life… success begins with a clear answer to the most important question: Why do you exist?

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