[August 17, 2014] A fundamental truth about great leadership is the recognition that everyone must have a clear sense of purpose. Otherwise, it will be difficult to decide what to do and how to do it. With the right purpose, informed decisions are possible. Nearly every person in an organization understands what they do and generally how they do it. In the military, we prevent war or when necessary fight them. We do this with a lot of great tools and a highly trained force of professionals. What many in organizations do not know is why the organization exists. This is the reason there are no shortcuts to long-term success in organizations.
Customers do not purchase what your organization does, they buy the why you do it. Why is why so important? Why is an emotional attachment, a belief. Leaders must talk about why their organization exists and those things that make it successful. Great leaders are able to inspire – they can explain the why in a way that is easily understood. This is not the result of a great media drive or fancy brochures about the company’s products. It’s about being able to get the word out to people on the value of the organization.
During the Korean War, the United States military re-learned a valuable lesson. It was that the American fighting man needed to know why certain things were required of him. The U.S. fighter didn’t want to know that it was “important to take that hill.” He wanted to know why it was important to take the hill and possibly die for it. Armies in socialist nations never want to know why they have to take the hill, only that the order is given. Americans are creative, socialist follow orders. Just ask Joseph Stalin.
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