Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

NorthWise Blog

        A leadership blog dedicated to inspiring leaders to ignite flourishing.

The Big ‘WHY’ of Your Leadership

Todd Kemp - Thursday, September 01, 2016

Why do you choose to lead others? What’s at stake when you lead? 

If you could lead regularly with your ‘A’ game, what could be possible?

Consider the case of “Jorge,” a rising star in a supervisor role at a construction services company where I recently interviewed him and five other key employees. Jorge’s positive attitude and enthusiasm for his company’s culture and his team is contagious. His work ethic, productivity, and eagerness to learn new things are off the charts. Here’s what he shared with us:

“I like and love these people. I’m a better man because of [this company]. They helped me to step up in life. Their trust in me is huge. I try to give it back to them. I love what I do.” Jorge pauses at one point to choke back the emotion that comes over him. He shared how this company helped him make a new start in life and how thankful his wife was for the company, its leaders, and the opportunity for her husband.

Jorge didn’t show up to his job interview like this. Something happened to Jorge while working at this company.

His leaders took a personal interest in him and his coworkers and it made a big impact in his life. “Nobody in this industry treats its workers like they do here,” Jorge said. “They know who we are, they know my kids’ names and they help us when family emergencies come up.” Jorge’s leaders opened him up to new ways of being and engaging in his workplace through their own approach to leading.

Leadership matters to Jorge.

Or take “Connor,” a field tech at another service company. He shared this in our interview: “I used to think ‘cause no harm.’ Now I understand that I am responsible for making a positive impact beyond just my own life. My prayer every day is, ‘help me not to do anything stupid to get fired.’ I’m truly happy here; I get to make a positive impact. It’s so much more than installing equipment.”

Connor pressed in further to how he and his fellow technicians could make a greater contribution to the larger company profitability and charitable giving goals. He shared that the leaders of his company really care about him and his colleagues as people and that they had provided personal financial management classes, as one example, and how thankful he was for it and the positive impact it’s had on him. “It’s so great here!”

Connor is all in with the company culture and it has transformed him.

Connor loves that the company has a big vision to make an impact in its community and in the world. Employees have made personal connections to the company’s values and vision. They see this culture consistently lived out by the leaders and they are reminded of it continuously. It seemed as if Connor had some kind of awakening or spiritual experience in the two years he’s been at the company. Indeed, Connor would say he’s had a significant personal transformation since coming to work here.

Leadership and culture gave Connor a new vitality.

Wouldn’t you love to have people like Jorge and Connor on your team as living testaments of the significance and positive impact that your leadership has had on them and their families?

These two employees were not alone in their engagement and satisfaction. Others who we interviewed reflected similar enthusiasm in their comments.

Interestingly, Jorge’s company is having a record year in terms of revenue and profit. Connor’s company hit record profits last year and is growing again this year.

Culture impacts performance.

The CEOs and general managers of these two companies have been very intentional about working on their own leadership and building their cultures for the past two-and-a-half years. Jorge and Connor are but two examples of the fruit of their labors.

Many thoughtful and successful leaders seem to consider more than innovation or great products and services or market share or profit as the end goals of their leadership.

Exceptional leaders pursue significance with people as well as performance.

For them, leadership serves a greater purpose – making a positive impact in the lives of the people they touch. The CEO of Jorge’s company forged a compelling vision for his leadership: “Working environments where everyone sees and embraces their God-given potential.”

Neuroscience reveals why resonant leadership is more effective.

In one study[1], Richard Boyatzis, coauthor of Primal Leadership and Resonant Leadership, found that when middle-aged participants recalled specific experiences with resonant leaders, it significantly activated 14 regions of interest in the brain, while dissonant leaders activated 6 and deactivated 11 regions. The neuroscience indicates that resonant leaders – those with highly relational, inspiring, and supportive connections – help activate openness to new ideas and more social orientation to others. Dissonant leaders, on the other hand, seem to turn people off, alienate them, and lose their motivation.

Resonant leadership actually engages more of the (follower's) brain.

Significant positive impact doesn’t happen by accident.

As a leader, you get to decide how to lead. You get to choose whether you’ll make a significant positive impact. And it starts with finding or deciding on your purpose for leading.

So what’s the Big ‘WHY’ of your leadership?

A few questions for you to consider:

  • What kind of culture are you creating intentionally or allowing to happen?
  • What kind of culture would you love to create as a leader?
  • How are you showing up as leader and what impact is that having?
  • What difference do you hope to make?
  • What would you like people to say about your leadership after you’re gone?

Please share the Big ‘WHY’ of your leadership and your story about pursuing significance in leadership. I’d love to hear from you!


[1] Richard Boyatzis, “Neuroscience and Leadership: The Promise of Insights,” Ivey Business Journal, January/February, 2011.

Comments (1) | Permalink

Greg commented on 20-Sep-2016 05:43 PM
I found your article to be very insightful.

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Todd Kemp

Todd Kemp


Todd believes that great leaders ignite flourishing and propel noble missions. He loves engaging leaders who value their own growth, are passionate about their people and earn profit for a greater purpose.

Since 2004, Todd has worked with CEOs and Business Owners, helping them build value in their organizations and multiply their capacity for being trusted leaders. As President of Sunbelt Business Advisors, a business brokerage, Todd worked with over 100 companies helping them buy, sell or reposition their firms. In addition to leading a $350M tech sales region at a Fortune 150, he earned entrepreneurial scar tissue by co-founding a software venture and acquiring a retail business.”

A graduate of Stanford University, Todd played on two NCAA Championship water polo teams. He lives with his bride and two teenage children at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Todd enjoys mountain biking, hiking, investing time with family and making mango salsa.