Many leaders put as much effort into defining how they want to “show up” as they would in buying a new refrigerator. In fact, some may give their leadership skills even less thought. These mindless leaders react to whatever captures their attention and desire in the moment, but don’t stop to think about their impact or how they want others to remember them when they are no longer around.
Being intentional about how you lead is hard work, but in a way it’s no different than learning to play the piano or getting better at your golf swing. It requires you to look to a future goal (“I want to be a concert pianist”; “I want to be able to compete at golf”; “I want to increase my level of influence”). You have to be diligent and work hard at practicing with deliberate action steps that are focused on the nuances of your strengths and gaps.
It takes courage, fortitude, and resolve to be intentional in your work as a leader. It requires risk, failure and the ability to pick yourself back up and go at it again.
The hard work is worth your efforts. The gifts that come back to you when you’re intentional are results and a legacy that others remember. You’ll create a world that is better than when you entered it.
To start you on your journey of intentionality:
Be visionary. This is what Stephen Covey called “begin with the end in mind.” Consider the following questions: What will it look like when you’re at your best as a leader? How will others describe you and the impact you made on them? What will they remember you for? No matter what you do and how you do it, you’ll leave a legacy. Why not make it one that you’ve crafted and been intentional about? Write it down. Revise it. Ask others what they think about it. But do have a personal leadership vision.
Be driven by your values. What values do you stand for? Knowing what principles and beliefs are important to you provides an anchor when it comes time to make tough decisions or take difficult action. Spend some time thinking about what’s important to you and what things you won’t compromise on. You can work with a mentor or coach on this, or you might already have an idea of what’s most important to you. Write down your top three to five values. Carry them with you or memorize them. They will be an important tool to help you become and stay a great leader.
Be courageous. It takes courage to follow a vision and to stand true to your values. Are you ready for the conflict it may cause? How will you react when you’re criticized for decisions you make based on your values? How will you respond to those who disagree? A personal vision and values sometimes requires you to follow the road less traveled, which isn’t always considered an asset in the business world. Make sure that your resolve is strong as it will only make you a better, more confident leader.
Be reflective on your progress at becoming more intentional. Refer to your personal vision and values regularly as you consider if you are on the path or straying from them. What steps are you taking to assure that your vision and values become incorporated into your daily routine? What happens when your daily routine blows up and you are under stress (do you revert to reacting rather than being intentional?). Who can help you stay true to what matters to you?
Being intentional about your leadership is a best practice for making incremental improvements in the way you lead. Start with vision, values, courage and reflection, and you are on your way toward becoming the best.
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages Fortune 500 corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.