It’s Always about the Why

Today, during the early morning leadership learning lab, our LDP presenters Diogo Seixas and Breanna Whitley gave an excellent summary on the “Golden Circle”, a powerful leadership model by Simon Sinek (see “Start with Why”, 2009).  Just like the main premise of Sinek’s book, inspiring others to take action, I was inspired by the presentation, and reminded “why” I‘m a part of the LDP. Of course I was invited just like the rest of you to come to a meeting and check it out. Someone always does the inviting… I remember the passion of the individual who invited me. I remember he described how effective the program was at building highly successful student leaders at SIU who continued in awesome success after graduation. He explained “why” the LDP was important to him personally, and I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about this. This individual was of course Dr. DeRuntz. But I’ll come back to this important piece of my personal “why” in a moment.


Unfortunately, as you all know leadership is often scarce in our communities, work places, and sadly, even in many families. As Sinek describes, others will truly be motivated if their leaders understand, demonstrate and communicate an authentic “why” consistently and effectively. I think we all at some point in life strive to find meaning and purpose, perhaps we realize we need motivation or resources to improve ourselves, to help others we care about, or to improve some situation. I’ve learned that passion and desire are not enough. Leading ourselves and leading others requires much more, and we must often sacrifice if we are willing to lead through service. Like Sinek and others have pointed out, people should be able to recognize that there is something unique about a leader, something that may seem abruptly different or even ostensibly antithetic to the normal lifestyles, work ethics and habits of most individuals. Authentic leadership demands people encounter the genuine inspiration that is found at the center of real leaders. This golden center is the “why” at the core of every great leader. The “why” we do what we do? I agree with Sinek and many others that authentic leadership has a clear grasp on the “why” and the results should confirm this. I see this in the LDP. I have experienced this “why” in the leaders of the LDP, like Dr. DeRuntz, and I’m so thankful that he invited me to join the leadership team. Bruce DeRuntz is a dear friend, a trusted colleague and an inspirational leader.

It’s always about the “Why.” Peter, an Apostle of Jesus, inspired teacher and sacrificial leader, wrote long ago about leading and inspiring others… “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is in you.”  He was teaching about the “Why” (see 1 Peter 3:15). So this morning, during the learning lab, the reason for why I’m part of this amazing and inspiring organization was once again reinforced, as it is every time we meet, work and play as a team of leaders. I’m passionate about teaching, about research and learning, but I know this is not enough. Life is too short and often difficult, and to effectively lead ourselves and others more is required. The motivational “Why” for me includes this wonderful privilege to practice leadership, to demonstrate and teach leadership to others every day. The sustaining “Why” of authentic leadership for me… Well, it is always about the enduring reward of helping others discover their own personal “Why”.