Recently I began working with a new client, Anna (name changed for confidentiality). Anna was successful in her business, had recently been promoted to a global role and wanted to develop further her leadership skills. She recognised her strengths and capabilities in helping others gain clarity, solving complex problems and getting things done.

Equally, Anna recognised that to be the leader she aspired to be, was to change her mind-set. She realised she would need to let go of doing and focus on how she was being as a leader. Anna discovered that being more intentional in her leadership would lead to sustaining the trust she had built, empowering her team to grow and develop and to achieving a greater sense of fulfilment in her whole life, not just at work.

What does it mean to lead and live intentionally?

Being intentional is about making conscious choices in how you lead and live your life. When you live intentionally you experience living in the moment, learning from the situation you are in and knowing that you have the power to change. Being intentional is about adopting a mind-set which you can deliberately enter into at any time. When you lead intentionally, you are serving others, you are listening to what is important to them, you are responding to what really matters, you are developing yourself as well as others.

Why does it matter?

Being intentional matters because it creates the opportunity for you to live on purpose. To live in accordance with what is important to you. It matters because, in my experience, when you live more intentionally, you will be more focused, accomplish more and feel more fulfilled.

How do you become more intentional?

. It is a way of being as well as what you are doing. Previously I have suggested being committed is one of the key qualities for effective personal leadership. Living and leading intentionally is like a habit. It takes time to develop it, it requires practice and once it is formed, it becomes almost unconscious. Most of all, it’s worth it.

I share below with you 7 habits for developing more intentional leadership so that you, and others in your span of influence, feel more fulfilled and experience greater contentment.

1) Take responsibility for yourself, your life and your leadership. Rather than blaming the situation or another person, hold yourself accountable to all that you do and all that you are. Whilst you may not be able to change the situation, you are able to change your response to it. Rather than slip into a victim mode, or a persecutor mode, consider the opportunity that the situation is presenting. As an example, a team member is acting in a very controlling way and is having a negative impact on you and others, so much so a complaint has been made against them. Consider what is being asked of you? How do you need to step up into your leadership and support this individual adapt their behaviour?

2) Develop your curiosity and consider what you might learn when listening to another’s point of view.  Adopt a growth mind-set where you recognise that making mistakes is part of achieving success. Consider what you might learn when things don’t always go to plan. Know that every experience good and bad is an opportunity for continuous improvement.

3) Manage your emotions. In the past I have heard people say ‘leave your emotions at the door’ or ‘we don’t do emotions here’. In my experience, when you assume there is little place for emotions in the workplace and seek to repress them, you will miss out on bringing your wholeself to work and performing at your best. Emotions form a large part of our intelligence.  In my work as a Thinking Environment practitioner, expressing feelings is one of the 10 components that generates high quality thinking. You cannot think well if you simply repress your feelings, they are there for a reason. Being intentional in managing your emotions is about noticing them, acknowledging them and releasing them in an appropriate way. Emotions are a source of wisdom. Feeling frustrated is a sign that things are not going well which needs your attention. Feeling joyful suggests things are going well and a time for appreciation and celebration.

4) Listen so others want to speak to you, speak so others want to listen to you. In my experience, listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give another person. It seems in this world of constant interruption, listening is the one thing your team members and family want more than anything else. Listening lets someone know they matter.

When you speak, consider your audience. What information will be helpful to generate more of their thinking? What information will help them to make better decisions for themselves? What information will empower them to grow and develop?

5) Appreciate others. When was the last time you felt appreciated, truly appreciated? Not just for what you did but for who you are as a human being? When you appreciate another for a quality that you see in them, it seeks to help them grow. For often they may not see this is a quality they have themselves. Research from the Gothenburg Institute in USA suggests that when we appreciate another and create a positive interaction, on a ratio of 5:1 to when we offer critical feedback, the quality and length of relationships deepen and strengthen. When others around you feel valued, they will add value time and time again to you, to themselves, to the organisation and to their family.

6) Recognise the potential in others and in the situation. As human beings, I believe we are all born with the inherent capacity for good, with huge potential. Being intentional is to positively look for the goodness you see in others. In my role as a coach, it is the greatest privilege to witness individuals tapping into their potential in the very moment they recognise they have it within them to accomplish what they want. So often, it is a limiting assumption about another person, the situation, even ourselves that holds us back from stepping into our potential. Being free from a limiting assumption and choosing a more liberating assumption is one of the keys to witnessing that potential in everything and everyone you interact with.

7) Develop a mindset of win:win. Some believe that competing with one another is the way to success and fulfilment. In my experience, it is the opposite. It is collaboration that leads to success and fulfilment. Being intentional about your leadership is about creating an environment where others can find and nature their talents and perform at their best. Empowering others to be their best is to generate their best thinking. Being free from internal competition and the fact you need to be right, will enable others to think better around you than if you depend on positional power, hierarchy and compete with one another.

If you would like to become more intentional in your leadership and achieve greater success with your team and in your organisation, please join me and my colleagues from the Barry-Wehmiller Leadership Institute on our inaugural 2-day leadership development experience in Central London in April 2018. You can learn more and apply here.