The Three Leadership Questions: WHY, WHAT, HOW

By Abel Pagaling

(This article was originally posted at

TFCCLast year I gave a speech on Leadership, specifically on workplace excellence. In my view, leadership and workplace excellence are one of the same. You can’t be excellent in the workplace if you don’t practice some form of leadership (personal or group leadership), and you can’t develop leadership qualities if you neglect to practice excellence in your workplace or business.

Here’s how I see it: Leadership is practicing excellence in all areas of your life. To be a leader is to purposely accept “all” responsibilities and expectations that come with it. It means that the spotlight is always on you. You wear the results, the issues, and the benefits that come with the position.

And here’s one thing that’s often overlooked about leadership – it’s not easy, and it’s a lifelong commitment.  Having said this, there are three questions all aspiring leader must ask before embarking on this difficult, challenging, often confusing, but very rewarding “leadership journey”:

  1. WHY
  2. WHAT
  3. HOW


If “desire” is the starting point of all achievement (according to Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich), then “WHY” is the starting point of Leadership. WHY do you want to lead? WHY do you want to take on the responsibility of being a leader? Your success or failure in leadership starts with your WHY. Leaders who aren’t clear about their WHY becomes distracted and ultimately fail along with the organization they’ve worked hard to build. Your answer to your WHY is your reason, calling, or purpose for being a leader. It’s what gives your efforts meaning.

Here are some examples of WHY:

-“I practice leadership so that I can be an inspiration to my kids.”
-“I exercise leadership because I want to make the world around me a better place.”
-“I practice leadership because it’s the only way to true progress.”

So before you practice leadership, think about your WHY. Make sure you are clear that you’re leading for the right reasons. Keep in mind that a person without an important reason to pursue anything will not accomplish anything important.


Once you know your WHY or your reason to lead, the second question you need to answer is WHAT.

WHAT do I want to change, do, or create to make my WHY a reality? Your WHAT is your list of short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals that supports your WHY. Here is an example: If you want to be an inspiration to your kids, WHAT are the things you need to change, do, or create in your life to make that a reality? Here’s another example: If you’d like to lead in your community, WHAT goals do you need to achieve to make that happen? I would argue that one reason why people are unhappy is that they are doing work that doesn’t support their WHY. They don’t have a clear WHAT list or a goals list. As a consequence, they say “yes” to anyone with a good idea. I was recently approached to be a board of director or a committee member for a well-known local organization. Although being part of the board or one of the committees would have felt right, I had to decline the opportunity so I can focus on the goals we have for TFCC. The reason I was able to confidently back away from such an opportunity is that I have a list of goals already in place.

On my blog “Three Things You Need to Become a Champion”, I wrote about the importance of being focused towards your goals, and that you have to say “NO” to a lot of good things so that you can be great at the one thing you want. Being clear about your goals allows you to achieve that.


Now that you have a clear WHY and WHAT, you now have to spend time on the HOW. This is where the actual work happens. The HOW is all about preparation. It is a list of specific actions you must take for each goal on your WHAT list. This could include taking extra courses in school, finding a coach or mentor, reading books, or connecting with groups such as The Filipino Champions of Canada (TFCC) so you can have a good networking relationship with highly confident and driven individuals. Your “HOW” list is what will turn your goals into reality. Without this list, goals mean nothing. Putting it all together, here’s an example of how to apply the three questions:

WHY (your reason for leading):

“I want to set a good example for my employees and coworkers because I believe I have what it takes to succeed.”

WHAT (your goals to make your “WHY” reality): 

  1. Complete my projects on time.
  2. Follow the company values.
  3. Contribute to the growth of the company.
  4. Propose improvement ideas.

HOW (preparation to successfully meet your goals):

  1. To meet my deadlines, I’ll work closely with my boss to establish priorities. I’ll also learn about “task management”, or seek to coach in this area so I can be more effective.
  2. To add value to what my coworkers are doing, I’ll meet with them once a week, ask about what they are doing, and offer my input on a consistent basis.
  3. To help my team work better, I could organize a work group, team volunteer initiatives, or start a Toastmasters club for my team. I would need to learn how to go about these to make sure I succeed.
  4. I will seek out issues, challenges, or opportunities to improve the processes of the company. You see, leadership is not a mystery. It’s not reserved for the select few. It’s a discipline we can all learn to practice, and we get better at it over time.

Start practicing leadership today. Know your WHY, your WHAT, and your HOW. The more you practice leadership in all areas of your life, the more you’ll see better results for your efforts, and the more valuable you’ll be in any group, community, or organization you work for. Don’t just be busy working. Be busy achieving! Be busy leading!



Abel Pagaling is a co-founder of FCM.

He is a manager, an entrepreneur, a writer, a community servant, and a motivational speaker. His passion is personal development and leadership.


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