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"Why" One Word is So Important for Leaders

In the absence of information, people will write a dark narrative

Sometimes as leaders we assume “the why” behind our decisions is self-evident or that our people will instinctively know we will make the best decisions for the team and “the why” isn’t necessary. For leaders, explaining “the why” behind any significant decision is essential to the teams’ success. In the absence of information, it’s human nature to often write a dark narrative as to the reasons and rationale behind our decisions.

You don’t want to work for people who don’t believe in giving “the why.” Think about the difference between someone who explains “the why” and someone who says, “Do it because I said so”? Leaders in war zones may not be able to explain “the why” to their people while under fire - “go, go, go” and “get down” - may have to suffice in the moment to save lives. For the rest of us, not taking the time (or worse not feeling the need) to explain “the why” is lazy and/or arrogant.

Explaining “the why” demonstrates that we have examined the issue, we have heard our teams’ input, we have “walked around it” as a former boss of mine would say. You have considered multiple viewpoints, the pros and cons for each course of action, and utilized the best information to make a timely decision. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll make the right decision every time but the rigor of explaining “the why” will lead to more better decisions.

Articulating "the why" can also give context as to how the task at hand fits into the broader concept of the teams' success. Giving “the why” shows respect for your people. Your people deserve “the why” and you will be a better leader for giving it.


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