The Secret of Why in Leadership

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Understanding Great Leadership


We examined the importance of having clear intentions and motivations.  Intentions and motivations underpin the important question of why, or more to the point why bother.  If your motivations aren’t sufficient you simply wont bother, if your intentions aren’t important enough you won’t bother. Nor will the people you want to follow you bother to invest themselves in your ideas.

We also looked at the problem with clear intentions and motivations.  If they are crap or poorly formed, they will ultimately create problems and inefficiencies that will see the idea or enterprise grinding to a halt, or completely imploding under the chaos that’s derived from the poor intentions and motivations.

If there was a single characteristic that defined the problems with motivation and intention, it could be simply described as a problem with fulfilment. In short insufficient fulfilment for enough people. It seems the single most common feature of harmful motivations and intentions is they only fulfil the needs and wishes of the leadership or an elite few.

You don’t have to be a genius to realise that the age of monarchs and dictators and commodity regulators, is coming to an end. The new breed of leaders are able to formulate ideas that maximise the fulfilment potential for the most number of people.

In this post we’re going to explore the principle that optimal intentions are based on motivations that maximise the potential for fulfilment for large numbers of people, not just the leader nor an elite few, or simple a portion of the organisation.

For the nervous amongst my readers who are concerned that this sounds like veiled attempt to promote socialism or communism nothing could be further from the truth. Optimising ideas for fulfilment is fully immersed in the the heart of capitalism.  Think about it.  Optimising the fulfilment potential of an idea is the only way to maximise the attractiveness of that idea such that it goes viral.  Optimising the idea for fulfilment potential is the only way to make the idea compelling.

In short ideas built on the motivation to maximise fulfilment for the most number of people wins. Which is highlighted by an interesting trend emerging since the Internet democratised business. That trend is the company’s and leaders who maximise fulfilment for the largest number of people win win the largest market share.   Put obstacles in the way of the empowerment of the consumer and your idea just won’t be as compelling as the the idea that does.


If you want to be a leader who establishes motivations and intentions that inspires engagement, innovation then you have to know the answer to this question and why it is true.  If you want to be a leader who enjoys the craft of leadership and is confident and masterful you must know what inspires.  Think about this if you’re not able to inspire engagement then you will only be left with compel engagement when you lead and we can easily predict how that will end.

Knowing what inspires goes right to the heart of the “why” of leadership.  But it isn’t just a matter of having a clear set of motivations and intentions.  Whilst clarity is the first step in formulating a powerful motivation for your leadership you also need to understand that the quality of your intentions matters just as much. To help you understand this point you have to understand people and why they follow.  When you fully understand people and motivation you are going to immediately understand the best reason to lead.

Needless to say when you understand this imperative you will establish your plans upon optimal intentions and motivations. Because to do otherwise would be ineffective, unsustainable, and un-enduring. Some would argue short sighted even foolhardy.


To completely understand the question of what are the best motivations for a leader you have to understand what drives humans.  What makes us get up in the morning and work all day?  Whilst there are hundreds of models explaining human drives the simplest way I have found to answer the question is to understand that humans are aspirational.

The vast majority of humans are born with an innate desire to aspire and improve their life. Which I’m sure doesn’t come as a surprise. This drive is called the fulfilment intention and is expressed by our drive to be fulfill through our lives by satisfying our needs and wants.

It is the reason why people get out of bed in the morning. It is the reason why we seek promotion in career. It is the reason why we work to improve our relationships, our homes, our gardens and our health and everything else that matters to us. We are simply seeking greater and greater levels of fulfilment.

You might be asking why. The short answer is that it makes life feel good. Think of the alternative. To pursue greater and greater levels of un-fulfilment, dissatisfaction. To feel less good. It simply doesn’t make sense. Leaders who understand this dichotomy and commit to its implications will establish lasting, efficient, intentions and motivations regardless of how hard the task is, simply because it’s better.


So here is the secret.  The more a leader empowers people to be fulfilled as they engage in the realisation of their idea, the more powerful is the leader.  If their was a way to tap this intention, this innate human drive to feel empowered through fulfilment you could imagine how much power a leader would have.  Needless to say there is way to tap harness this potential and that is the fundamental message that underpins this series of posts.  That leadership is about empowerment of people not the subjugation of people.   The way to tap into the human desire to aspire is for another post.  But to give you a hint of what that is about,  it is all about the, why and how of your messaging.


If we return to our definition of leadership and we add in our understanding of fulfilment and how important it is in the formulation of motivations and intentions we are starting to get closer to a definition of great leadership.

With that in mind what is our definition now? The definition of leadership we have after we insert the fulfilment intention is this.

Leadership is the organisation of the mental, emotional, physical, social, and material, resources of self and others in order to bring into the world an optimal idea that maximises the fulfilment potential for the most number of people.

With that in mind I want to leave you with this thought to ponder.

The leader who empowers the most number of people to maximise their fulfilment wins! 


In the next post we’re going to complete this series on leadership. We’re going to investigate the “how” of leadership. And examine the complexities that come with turning ideas into reality.  Until then take some time out of your busy lives to consider the questions of motivation and intention. Ask yourself do I care to maximise fulfilment, or is it only about me and mine.  Do my ideas maximise the fulfilment potential for the most number of people in my organisation. If not what would happen to the engagement I inspire if I they did?

Yes it is harder to create high quality motivations, intentions and ideas. It is harder to maintain your commitment to this process particularly when many in the corporate world, are aggressive or have no regard for the fulfilment of others. No one said great leadership is easy. It is more difficult to be a great leader. However it is more effective, it is more efficient, compelling and enduring.  Concepts which should resonate with anyone in a leadership role.  So as you go through the rest of your busy day think about which do you want to be?

For now it’s a beautiful autumn afternoon in my part of the world.  I’m just going to pop out and enjoy it for a moment while I think about my next post.

All the best




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