“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – Theodore Roosevelt
Most leaders intend to be good leaders. They really do. But that’s not what being an intentional leader is about. If you’ve ever had a boss who left a profound impression on you, who you credit with your development and success, whose words of wisdom still resonate and whose actions you will always admire, then it’s likely you’ve met one. If you haven’t, let me introduce you to the transformative power of an intentional leader…
What does being an ‘Intentional Leader’ mean?
“Intentional Leadership is an approach that aligns desired outcomes, core values, and fundamental purpose for a significant increase in results.” – The Center for Intentional Leadership
Intentional leaders are a special breed of leader. They have a clear vision that they’re brilliant at articulating – a core purpose tied to their values that guides their daily actions. They’re deliberate in their approach, thoughtful and transparent in their actions, careful in their decisions, considerate of their impact and empathetic of others. They care about creating capacity in their team, helping them grow and succeed, empowering them to be part of the bigger picture. They actively listen and are always learning, and they’re happily accountable for their actions.
Intentional leaders have a positive effect on people, performance, productivity, culture and happiness. So basically, they’re rockstars.
The good news is that you can become an intentional leader too. It takes practice and patience, but the benefits – for yourself, for your business and for those around you – are enormous.
Benefits of Intentional Leadership
1. A Thriving Culture
As renowned management consultant and author Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You can have the greatest strategy in the world, but if your culture isn’t right, your business is never going to succeed.
Gold standard workplace culture ticks the boxes of job satisfaction, personal growth and fulfilment. It encompasses the way decisions are made, reward and recognition, communication, staff behaviour, trust, belonging and loyalty, and – when done right – gives businesses an edge over competitors.
A strong culture helps attract and retain the best talent (companies with healthy cultures are 16 times more likely to retain their Gen Z employees) and motivates that talent to reach full potential.
But according to McCrindle research, thriving cultures don’t just create great places to work with higher retention, they also lead to superior outcomes. And to create a thriving culture, McCrindle found that leaders need to lead with empathy, understanding and trust – key traits of the intentional leader.
Intentional leaders create a thriving culture by providing clarity and direction and then empowering team members to make decisions, building that critical trust and respect. They ask great questions, actively listen and encourage everyone to have their say – according to Stephen Covey, they “seek to understand, then to be understood.’
An intentional leader cultivates a culture and atmosphere where employees feel that their work matters, and their contribution is valued. They foster an environment of self-confidence and connection. They engage with their team personally and professionally, really get to know each individual and what motivates them.
US management guru Marvin Bower defined corporate culture as “the way we do things around here” – and there’s no doubt that intentional leaders do it best.
2. Clarity and Shared Purpose
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Stephen Covey created a clever analogy for organisational clarity in his book, The 8th Habit. Based on research conducted with over 23,000 employees, he reported that if our organisations were 11-player soccer teams, only 4 players knew which goal was theirs, only 2 actually cared which goal was theirs, 2 knew what position they played and 9 were in some way competing against their own team members rather than the opponent. Ughhhhhh.
Clarity of purpose helps others understand what they need to do, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. As best-selling author Alan H. Cohen put it, “When your intention is clear, so is the way.”
McCrindle research found that 72% of the emerging generation of employees are driven by having purpose and meaning in their work, and a desire for their work to align with their core values (68%).
Similarly, McKinsey research found that people who find purpose at work are healthier, more resilient and more likely to stay at the company. And when that purpose is aligned with their own, they’re more engaged and loyal, reporting work and life outcomes up to five times higher than those of their peers. An overwhelming 89% of people surveyed said they want more purpose from work than they’re getting.
The message is resonating with corporates too. According to PwC research, 79% of business leaders agree that their purpose is central to success going forward.
Intentional leaders consider the company’s impact on society and use the company’s purpose as their lighthouse when they need to make difficult decisions. They understand that employees are five times more likely to be excited to work for a company that spends time reflecting on the impact it makes in the world.
Intentional leaders recognise the power of a clearly articulated purpose, and are able to help employees engage with it and align it to their own purpose. It’s one of the major reasons they (and their teams) are so successful. As Leading Edge author Holly Ransom noted, “Knowing your why is one thing, knowing their why is everything.”
3. Improved Productivity
“Intentional leadership is about raising the capacity of a team through clear direction and strategy.” – Jeremie Kubicek
We’ve covered how explaining ‘the why’ helps motivate team members to achieve results. It follows then that once they understand ‘the why’, they will help with ‘the how’. Leadership pioneer Warren G. Bennis once said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality” – and intentional leaders have the ability to create an inspiring vision that they then empower their staff to help them achieve.
When that clarity of purpose is paired with thoughtful actions, a caring, respectful attitude and a genuine desire to help team members grow, a work environment led by an intentional leader is a happy place to be. And happiness and productivity go hand in hand, according to research by Oxford University, which showed that happy workers are 13% more productive than unhappy ones.
What else makes employees happy, engaged and motivated? Being given the autonomy to work flexibly. Intentional leaders ensure that employees understand organisational expectations and objectives, and trust their team members to get their work done in a way that suits their individual needs.
Even before the pandemic, research pointed to the productivity advantages of flexible work, with a 2019 Staples study showing a massive 90% of workers indicated that more flexible work arrangements would boost morale and increase their satisfaction at work. Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey also found that when employees have a choice over where, when and how much they work, 55% were high performers compared to 36% in a standard office environment. Happy AND productive.
So at a time when flexibility is being demanded, it seems intentional leaders already have the advantage when it comes to productively managing their teams.
It’s often said that people are the greatest asset in any business. And in our new hybrid work world, attracting, hiring and retaining the best people is the most significant challenge facing businesses today. Creating a strong, inclusive culture and a happy, cohesive and productive workforce will be the key to success – and intentional leaders, leading with purpose, passion and a people-first mindset, could be the greatest differentiator. That’s the power of an intentional leader.
If you’d like some help improving your leadership, one whole module of my Recalibrate Self-Paced Coaching Program is focused on helping you to set intentions. You’ll also learn other life-long skills like value-setting and taking action to achieve your goals, as well as how to smash through limiting beliefs, bad habits and negative thinking. You can download an Info Pack for all the details, or simply get in touch and we’ll organise a time to chat!