What’s your leadership ‘why’?

I sometimes want to gag when I read this: “If you love what you do you never have to work another day in your life”. What a load of old bollocks!

My point is everything can become work, a chore, dull, too much, no matter how much you love it. But how you deal with that all depends on your mindset, and particularly, as Simon Sinek says, being clear on your personal ‘why’. That’s one of the most important things you need to look at a leader – and particularly to be a good Coaching Leader.

I used to dive with schools of 2-300 Hammerhead sharks. When I left after my 10 years in the military, I spent several years travelling, and ended up living in Borneo for a couple of years. I lived on an amazing 2000m deep coral atoll in the middle of the South China Sea, called Layang Layang, and worked there for 2 seasons as a dive instructor/dive guide, underwater videographer & marine researcher.

I lived at a 5* resort, looking after groups of holidaying guests with the brief to make their diving and overall experience, which they’d paid thousands of US$ for, the best experience they’d ever had.

My daily routine was have a 5* breakfast with my guests, brief & lead 3 day-time dives to find (and ideally get my guests swimming with) schools of 2-300 Hammerhead sharks, dolphins, turtles, schools of 10-20,000 trevally, 2+m Dogtooth Tuna, and a host of other sharks and 5* marine life. Then often a night dive to find some incredibly rare little critters in the lagoon, followed by a 5* dinner & drinking with & entertaining said 5* guests. Then sleep, get up & repeat… Oh, and I was single. And young. And very fit. I LOVED my job! I REALLY, LOVED it!

However, I remember waking up one morning, after another night entertaining said 5* guests in the 5* bar and not a lot of sleep, & having to go to a dive site called D-Wall – a sheer wall part of the atoll, literally 2000m straight down. The goal was to hit a small sandy ledge at 40 or so metres with Leopard sharks, rare Fire Dart fish, black coral etc, then cruise along & see a plethora other sharks, hopefully the Hammerheads.

I didn’t want to go. I’d had enough. I was worn out. It had all become a huge chore. It all sounded so idyllic, but at the core of it all, I felt hollow and lonely inside.

That was a shock. I tried to slap myself & tell myself not to be so damned stupid – look where I was, what I was doing! It didn’t work. I felt trapped in a 5* hell. “First world problems” I hear you scream…indeed…but it was my world & it was a problem. That’s my point.

For several nights, after everyone had finally gone to bed I went to the beach at the end of the island to think. After a lot of star gazing, I came to the conclusion that it was actually ok to feel that way. “I shouldn’t be feeling this”, “I live in paradise”, “people pay thousands of $ for this”, “what’s wrong with me?” didn’t cut it. I felt what I felt.

That was a big step. Once I accepted that I managed to mentally reappraise my situation. It wasn’t about being all Polyanna & telling myself how idyllic my life was & I should build a bridge & get over it. It was about getting back in touch with my ‘why’.

My why was because I wanted freedom – freedom from my controlling time in my military career; freedom from controlling parents and a controlling childhood; freedom to choose what I wanted to do; freedom to be my own person; freedom to choose. I suddenly realised I had a choice about how I felt about it all, and that I had a choice what I could do about it – if I chose to do it.

Once I had that clear, life changed. I still had days when I was tired & burnt out. But I found strength in my ‘why’ and that was what I was here for.

That still keeps me going today.

Running my own business for the last 16+ years has been full of…um… ‘interesting challenges’, shall we say.

On more than a handful of occasions I’ve wanted to jack it all in & go get a nice job with a nice steady income in a nice organisation where I didn’t have to constantly reinvent/ slog/ battle, constantly digging deep to find the strength & energy to keep going.

But then I remember my why…that I do it for the freedom. Freedom of choice. Freedom to realise I’m responsible for my own destiny. Freedom from the psychopathic boss I had when I was working for someone!

That ability to find your personal why is crucial to your own personal engagement.

As a people leader, helping your people to find their own personal why is a critically important skill. It can change actively disengaged people into engaged people. Most people are pretty crap at self-reflection, so if you can help your people self-reflect, then you can change their worlds. And yours.

But that’s something you can’t tell people to do. You have to be a Coaching Leader and coach it out of them – coach them to come to their own conclusions & realisations. It’s another reason why being a Coaching Leader is such a powerful and engaging leadership style.

To have a no cost, no obligation conversation over a coffee (or a wine/beer!) and to pick Simon’s brains, or get more information on our in-house Coaching Leadership/ Coaching Culture Training & Development programs, please contact the team at Southern Cross Coaching & Development on:

Tel:          +61 (0)2 7901 5618

Email:      [email protected]