Recently, I attended Mary Poppins, the musical, as my daughter played a role in the ensemble. I have seen this musical many times, but there is something compelling about seeing it in real life. It authentically explores the concept of becoming an intentional leader.
At one point, the young lady playing, Mary Poppins, sings the song, Anything Can Happen. To complete the sentence, it is, “Anything can happen if you let it.” I love this phrase, and I think it most important in the context of leadership.
I am working on launching a new website that has my name as a URL. It’s is not easy to land on what the messages on the front page on the website should be to speak to those who will search and land on it. As I thought long and hard about what my work and messages stand for, I realized that it does and always will boil down to intentional leadership.
Whether I am talking about caring leaders, resilient leaders, tenacious leaders, leaders who care for themselves, those without a manager title becoming aware and making changes to how they treat their coworkers, it boils down to being intentional and purposeful about it. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
I realized in this new website process that what I stand for is intentional leadership. What do I mean by this? Leaders who are intentional don’t wait for things to happen. They set out to make them happen. Moreover, they don’t focus on accidental outcomes, but curate environments and make decisions that produce outcomes they want. Interestingly enough, I am consistently advocating for this type of leadership.
Mary Poppins’ reference in the song above really pinpoints the power of choice. I think that this is the crux of great leadership, making better choices.
Below I have outlined five insightful ways to become a more intentional leader and make Mary Poppins proud:
Set Your Mind Right
The most important part of the process of becoming an intentional leader is to set your mindset up to push excuses away. Often, when we don’t show up as the best versions of ourselves, we tend to give ourselves too much grace or leeway to maintain our behaviors. Said another way, we don’t have our “eye on the prize” for the end result of showing up more intentionally.
Think about it, when we don’t think through an interaction with one of our team members, it might feel like the interaction just happened to us. This might make us feel like we have no control.
I promise you that we can control more than we think. Unless we are in a military camp or other place where someone is controlling our thoughts, we can turn our thoughts around. Mary Poppins refers to “moving mountains” and “making your dreams stretch like elastic”. This all starts in the mind, and no one can take this away from us.
If you focus on setting your mind right first, the road to intentional leadership will illuminate.
Write a Plan for Change
There is nothing that speaks more to intentionality than writing down a plan for how you intend to make changes and achieve goals. This might be in the form of writing daily to-do lists, and putting together a quarterly personal improvement plan. Either way, you are not leaving your leadership effectiveness to chance. Moreover, you refuse to let how you treat those you lead be accidental.
Take the time to jot down some ideas and hold yourself accountable for executing on them. Writing a plan for change is critical to achieving it.
Evaluate Yourself Daily
Despite your desire to be more intentional in how you show up as a leader, like any change, we must evaluate whether it is happening and whether it is long-lasting. You think you set your mindset right and put the proper plan in place. Now, how well are you executing on the change you wish to see in you?
This is critical. In my faith, I make it a habit to examine myself daily to measure my behaviors and my outcomes against my vision for myself and my desire to impact those around me. Some days, I can smile at all I have done to move toward that better leader. Other days, I realize I may have fallen short.
I am not looking at perfection, but I am expecting continuous improvement. I am on a journey to intentionality every day, never really reaching a destination.
Make it your business to evaluate yourself daily. Don’t leave your leadership identity to chance. Be intentional about growing you as a leader.
Ask for Feedback
If you know me, you know that I live and breathe by the voices of others. I don’t mean that my identity is tied up completely in what others say about me and my behavior. To the contrary, I simply seek out feedback from those I lead, colleagues, customers and friends. Additionally, I use that feedback as a barometer to how I am fulfilling my personal vision for myself. This is the act of an intentional leader.
At work, this might be 360 feedback, or bi-directional performance reviews, or just informal coffees with friends and colleagues.
No matter how good we are, we cannot see everything. I have made some minor tweaks to the ways I show up based upon what a trusted few have revealed to me.
Ask for feedback. Don’t worry, it only hurts a little.
Find an Accountability Partner
Being a leader of people can be lonely. Moreover, leaders might not trust colleagues at their same level in the organization with deep authentic conversation. When I am coaching my clients, I often tell them to look for an accountability partner. Yes, they have me, and that can be valuable. Nonetheless, finding someone who you can trust at work is key to executing on intentional changes.
For example, if you know that you need help with having more connected relationships inside of meetings, find someone you trust who is usually in those meetings with you. Let them know that you are trying to make changes that help you connect with your coworkers in a more connected way. Then, they will no what to look out for and suggest to you after the meetings so that you can be more intentional about making that change.
Leaders do not have to do it alone. In fact, when we do, we are less effective and less magnetic.
In conclusion, if you want to be more emotionally intelligent, more present, more focused, more connected, you have to first be an intentional leader. When you focus on setting your mind right, writing a plan, evaluating yourself, seeking feedback from others and selecting an accountability partner, you will notice your overall leadership effectiveness soar! Becoming an Intentional leader is a choice. Let’s make better choices together.
Mary Poppins would be proud of you for even trying!