Have a Compelling Why

Have a compelling why, leadership, empowering others,

by Steve Heard - Why do you do what you do?


Most of the successful organisations in this world are all very clear on their purpose - why they do what they do. Think of Apple: “...to leave the world better than we found it”. Nike: “...to bring inspiration to every athlete in the world”. Or even hospitals: “to save lives”.


Individuals also need a compelling ‘why’, and once we find our why it can be an incredible source of motivation. Having a compelling ‘why’ gives us all a reason to get out of bed in the morning and get stuck into the day ahead.


A few years ago I was challenged to find a clear purpose for my role as a leadership facilitator. It was easy to say to myself, “I’m just a trainer who runs leadership programmes”. That was my what. It was what I did for a job. After some prayerful consideration, I was able to come up with my why: “My purpose is to challenge, inspire and empower the people I work with to be better than they were before”. Now to me, that was a whole lot more motivating than what I thought my purpose was.


I remember challenging someone whose work involved servicing water pipes. He was struggling to find a meaningful purpose apart from “fixing water pipes”. So I asked, “Who is it that benefits from what you do, and what would happen if you didn’t do your role?” He was eventually able to come up with a clear purpose: “I ensure the people in my community have access to clean and safe drinking water in order to keep them healthy”. Now every time he fixes a water pipe, he will have this purpose in mind.


Having a clear purpose helps me think about what I spend my time on, and whether or not the activities in my day actually help or hinder me to achieve my purpose. I know I can easily get sucked into doing activities that might please others, or activities that might be easy or fun for me to do. But do these activities align with my purpose?


Even Jesus was clear on his purpose: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). I can’t think of one thing that Jesus did that wasn’t in line with this purpose. His compelling why enabled Him to endure the cross (“it was for the joy set before him” Hebrews 12:2) and fulfil the work the Father had planned for Him.


And then I got thinking about the other important roles in my life. What is the purpose of being a sports coach? What is the purpose of my marriage? What is the purpose of my role as a father? These are incredibly relevant questions to ask ourselves. Recognising that sports coaching isn’t always about winning, but being an enabler for young people - this has helped me change the way I work with my team. Being purposeful about growing intimacy and connection with my wife has helped me be a better husband. Being clear on my reason for fathering has helped me be more intentional about giving my kids the encouragement, time and support they need.


We all need a compelling why. Ask yourself and God for a clear purpose around the things you do. If you don’t have a purpose, then maybe it’s time to drop that activity and do something more in line with your values. Something that gives you meaning.


So, why do you do what you do?



Steve Heard


Steve Heard works with NZ organisations facilitating programmes that aim to build leadership capability. He is passionate about empowering others with the keys to be better than they were before. Steve lives in Auckland with his wife and 2 teenage kids and is an avid surfer, diver and fisherman.