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Why? Leading from the Right Question

Updated: May 5, 2018

Why You Need to Know the Answer

Why,” is the quintessential question. Simon Sinek says, "The part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn't control language, so we rationalize . . . Decision-making and the ability to explain those decisions exist in different parts of the brain” (Sinek, 2009, p. 57). Asking “Why?” triggers automatic processes. “Automatic processes, in contrast to controlled processes, involve more than one avenue of thought occurring at a time, don’t involve consciousness, aren’t accompanied by a sense of effort, and can’t easily be explained by anyone else” (Restak, 2006, p. 14).

When “why” comes into question, we can’t always articulate the answer. Sometimes we just have to go with our gut.

“History teaches us that those who identify as society’s greatest leaders had very clear insights on why leadership exists” (Caufield, 2013, p. 275).

In this researcher’s opinion, leadership exists because people need to know why, and it is leadership’s job to provide an answer.

"For a team of people to have a positive experience together, they must have shared goals that provide a specific reason for being together" (Kouzes & Posner, 2012, p. 230). Leaders identify that purpose and communicate it in such-a-way that brings order out of perceived chaos. It takes leadership to make sense out of chaotic atmospheres, to recognize “disorder can be the source of new order” (Wheatley, 2006, p. 20). Leadership provides answers in the midst of the why, and brings about a” unified purpose.


Caufield, J. (2013). Why does leadership exist? Journal of Leadership Education, 12 (1), 274-281.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge. San-Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Restak, R. (2006). The naked brain: New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Wheatley, M. J. (2006). Leadership and the new science. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

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The ”why” gives us purpose and a movement forward. Movement is vital for any individual, team or organization.

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