A classic definition of leadership is ‘to know thyself’. To understand oneself with the same rigor and laser-like attention usually reserved for key stakeholders – such as shareholders or one’s workforce – is a powerful ability and a key ingredient to successful, long-term leadership. ‘Leading intentionally’, however, requires pushing the boundaries beyond just self-awareness. To lead intentionally a leader must dig deeper and really define what they stand for and what their purpose is. Purpose provides the ‘why’ for a leader’s actions in addition to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their leadership style. Leading intentionally results in greater efficiency, authenticity and ultimately to results, both at the individual level (in terms of job satisfaction) and also for the organization (in terms of results achieved through a greater alignment of the leader with their role and remit).
As one calendar year ends and another begins, the time is right for leaders to reflect on their own leadership style. Specifically, it is the perfect time for leaders to reconnect with their purpose and to assess – looking back at the previous 12 months – how closely their actions and successes were aligned to their sense of purpose. For some, this is the time to clearly articulate and define their purpose for the first time.
Defining one’s purpose is a journey of discovery. This endeavor is ultimately more art than science and more personal and intuitive than regimented. When doing so, it also helps to remove the concept of ‘perfection’ from the get go. Leading intentionally is a journey that is intensely personal and rarely linear; it has no finite end-point. Instead, it is a mindset that ‘connects’ your purpose with your role and your organization, resulting in greater clarity and focus.
When defining your own sense of purpose and to start leading intentionally, begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- Why are you in your current role? How did you come to be in it? These questions become like an archaeological dig as you take yourself further back in time.
- What have you done that didn’t work out? Where did you succeed? Compare and contrast the ‘wins’ with the ‘losses’ to really understand the ingredients that comprised success.
- Keep asking yourself why you are doing what you are currently doing. Use the “Five Why’s” exercise to help get to the root cause of an action or outcome.
- What are you pretending not to know? What are your thoughts – both positive and negative? Be mindful of your thinking while you are working.
- What energizes you? What does your intuition and heart tell you? Pay as much attention to this as to the ‘hard’ data you’re collecting. It will enrich your direction immensely.
Reflect on the common themes that emerge from the questions above. Use this to articulate your purpose statement. In drafting your purpose statement, hold on to the idea of “being in service of/to” which is a powerful yet simple concept. Aim high yet not unrealistically so in your statement.
In today’s fast paced, highly stimulating and somewhat attention deficit world – leading intentionally ensures that your contributions enrich yourself, your organization, and those around you. It is a leadership mindset that ‘connects’ the key aspects of your leadership – your purpose and your role – helping you to lead with confidence and ultimately to be better able to deliver success at both the personal and organizational level.
Are you ready to lead intentionally in the year ahead?