Simon Sinek, author made-famous by his 2009's TEDx Talk, points out that everyone in an organization knows "WHAT" it is that they do, some know "HOW" they do it, but very few know "WHY" they do what it is that they do.
He points out that "there are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief - WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us..." Or to put it simply, "He who has a WHY to live (or lead) can bear almost any HOW," said Friedrich Nietzsche (bracket mine).
I don't believe that any great leaders suddenly know or actively looking for their "WHY." Instead, something happened in their lives – tragedy or success that happened to them, a vision that was given to them by their mentor or others, ordinary work seen as significant, etc. – that caused an emotional reaction and set their determination. That reaction naturally instilled their driving purpose. Slowly the "WHY" became clear to them. This is the most powerful "WHY" a person can have. Leaders need to have a strong "WHY" so that people can be inspired to do great things for and with them. People who understand why they're doing it will be better motivated and more effective. So what should a leader do? 1) A leader must know WHY; 2) Communicate WHY as often as possible; 3) Live the WHY daily – in public and private; and 4) Lead from WHY.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.