The rationale behind intentional leadership is that good results are not achieved by mere wishing or leaving things to chances. Hence, intentional leaders are deliberate in their actions. Guided by Murphy’s Law, which states that whatever can go wrong will go wrong and motivated by Abraham Lincoln’s words that the best way to predict the future is to create it, they take deliberate steps that enable them to steer the ship of their organizations in the particular way they want so as to minimize unpleasant surprises. As a result, they are able to make the best choices, engage in the right activities and make the best use of available resources.
Intentionality heightens focus and when focus is in force, productivity is unleashed because focus does not give room to distractions. When the totality of one’s energy is channeled to what is important, success is guaranteed. Contrary is the case when one is unable to put all of one’s energy in one direction. Focus is likened to concentrated light. Diffused light has no effect. But concentrated light, when passed through a magnifying glass, can burn a paper or even a fresh leaf. When light is more focused, it becomes a laser and laser can burn steel and destroy cancer. So, with focus, targets are easily achieved. This is why those who lead with intentionality are by far more productive and way more result-oriented than those who are not.
How to lead intentionally
To lead intentionally, the following steps need to be taken.
Understand the purpose of leadership
Leading intentionally starts with the leader understanding why he occupies the position. Unless purpose is understood, misuse is unavoidable. But the reality is that many of the people who occupy leadership positions have scant understanding of what they are supposed to do in their exalted positions, hence they make a mess of the opportunity because they think it is all about them. Leadership positions are not primarily for the benefit of the position holders because a leader’s essence is to serve the people and the organization. If a leader does not serve the people, he fails the test of leadership. This is where the term servant leadership arises from. But real service is possible only if the leader understands why he is in office.
To be regarded as a success, a leader has to ensure three things happen. First, the leader has to deploy available resources to produce tangible results that will gladden all stakeholders. The leader is appointed and entrusted with the resources of the organization because he is expected to utilize same to get results that will make everyone happy and proud to be associated with the organisation. If he does not do this, he is not a successful leader. Then, the leader has a responsibility to improve the well being of the people. If their lot is not better as a consequence of the activities of the leader, he is not successful. Finally, the leader must strengthen the system and make the organization sustainable. A leader who does not leave behind a stronger system or structure than he inherited is anything but successful.
Once the leader gets to understand the purpose of leadership, he is able to channel the whole of his energy towards achieving this by taking deliberate steps that will make it a reality.
Boiling purpose down to goals
While the purpose of leadership is universal, the leader has to narrow it down to his own specific situation, in view of the corporate vision, by determining what he has to do to achieve the purpose of leadership in his own organisation. These become his goals. He must decide what needs to be done to produce the results that will make all stakeholders happy and resolve to do it. He must determine what he will do to improve the lot of the people and what he must do to strengthen the organization and make it sustainable.
Boiling down the purpose to specifics will give the leader’s activities focus and prevent deployment of resources wrongly.
After defining what his goals as a leader are, he has to go a step further by distilling these into daily goals. He then has to outline activities that will be undertaken to ensure that the daily targets are achieved. To achieve the overall purpose of producing heartwarming results, empowering the people and strengthening the system, the leader has to take definite steps that will take him closer to the objective on a daily basis.
Coming up with strategies
The leader must device a means by which he will achieve his goals for his organizations. Visions are great, goals are excellent but neither of these can happen without a strategy. Strategies are the bridge between where an organization currently is and where it wants to be. Strategies translate goals into tangibles. So, after coming up with the plan for his organization, the leader must develop the strategy that will translate the goals into reality because it is strategy that actually drives the organization to the envisioned future.
Without an appropriate strategy, a company’s vision will be a mirage. It is for this reason that Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes, in their book, Exploring Corporate Strategy, submit that it is strategy which determines the direction and scope of an organization over the long term.
Strategy is vital to the actualization of corporate objectives because it bridges the gap between means and end. Strategy involves the deployment of resources at the disposal of an organization for the actualization of corporate goals.
According to Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor, strategy should determine how organizational resources, skills and competencies are combined to create competitive advantage.
That is why many have argued that any corporate failure is traceable to failure of strategy. Those of this school of thought insist that when a company goes down it is because it has employed the wrong strategy; if the strategy is inappropriate, the result will be unsatisfying.
Strategy is how an organization plans to achieve its vision. Strategy speaks of the steps an organization intends to take to arrive at its envisioned destination; its action plan to achieve its vision. Three factors are essential to making a strategy work. These are; right people, right technology or tools and right environment. This is why it is said that strategy involves the deployment of resources at the disposal of an organization for the actualization of its vision.
Raising a team
As important as strategy is to the actualization of set goals, without getting the right team, it amounts to nothing because raising the right team is critical to achieving a goal. This is because getting a task accomplished often requires input from different people. Therefore, great leaders spare no effort to get good members on their teams. They painstakingly and deliberately source men and women who they believe have the capacity to contribute to the realization of the vision which they have for their organization or group. They go after those who will bring their expertise and experience to bear on the group’s aspiration to achieve a goal. With a good team in place, the aspiration of the group becomes realizable.
The strength of a team is its bonding. A team enjoys synergy when the activity of each member synchronizes with others’ and builds on them just as it is with the movement of a millipede. A millipede is able to advance because the movement and the pace of its many limbs are in harmony, with one building on the other. If any of the limbs is out of sync with others, the movement of the millipede is impeded. The same goes for a team; the success of a team is hinged on harmony among its members. Without bonding in a team, everyone works at cross purposes and what should give it momentum saps it of drive.
According to Jim Rohn, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Intentional leaders understand this fully and sign for the pain of discipline by subjecting themselves to a regimen of restrictions and self-denials to achieve their daily goals.
Discipline is the most visible difference between intentional and unintentional leaders. It is also the major factor in the results they achieve. While unintentional leaders are unwilling to undergo the inconvenience foisted on them by discipline, intentional leaders, as a result of the motivation of the goals they want to accomplish, undertake the hated but necessary tasks that will ensure the realization of the desired end and avoid the pleasurable but limiting activities that will short-circuit their plans and aspirations. They do not spare themselves; they endure the grind and keep pushing the frontiers and ensure they do whatever they need to do so that they can achieve the goals they have set for themselves. They eventually hit the target they have set for themselves.
Without intentionality, leadership is reduced to hit or miss.