What Do I Want? That is the question.


“If you want to lead others well, you must first lead yourself well.” This is one of the most transformative lessons I have learned in leadership.

Leading yourself well starts with the question, “What do I want?” — a question that so many leaders rarely stop to ask themselves. Their first answer tends to be more about what others want or expect of them, rather than what they truly want.

Recently, I was with a great leader who has built a high performing team of capable and responsible leaders. The company culture is focused, and her leaders are operating and executing their roles interdependently. This has been her focus in our time together: building a team of the right people and entrusting them to be responsible for their work. And, she has accomplished that. So, now what? What should be her focus moving forward?

When I asked, “What do you think your focus should be?”, her response began with assumptions about what her board and leaders would want her to do, and how she could appease them. She was answering the question, “What do they want?”

My next question was, “What do you want?”

I then coached her through an exercise that first helped her visualize her current state of leadership and then her desired state of leadership. Once she identified what she wanted for herself, she was able to clarify the steps she needed to take to get there. And she found these to be crucial steps that would have a positive impact on her whole organization.

As a leader, how would you answer the question “What do YOU want?” Here are some responses I have heard from leaders . . .

  • I want a cohesive leadership team.
  • I want more open communication.
  • I want more accountability.
  • I want a more focused culture.
  • I want a more profitable organization.


What you want starts with you. No one else can cast vision and lead the organization to what you want. Many leaders don’t slow down long enough to gain this clarity and then lead passionately from what they want.

What will it take for you to get clear about what you want for you and your organization? Pause and ask yourself: “What do I want?” Your answer should give you clarity on what to do to get there and how to lead your people forward.