Is the Intentional Leader the most authentic leadership style?
In fact many of us have become very familiar and, in some cases, bored with what seem to be platitudes bandied about by management consultants and business gurus around leadership styles. Over the years there have been a plethora of scholarly studies and as many less credible propositions on leadership styles and techniques producing a canyon full of labels from which we are invited to choose. For example: servant leader, directive leader, authentic leader, participative, delegative, autocratic, democratic, transactional, transformational to name but the most popular. And the list really does go on.
However, what’s clear to anyone who has taken a deeper interest in leadership beyond just reading articles in Forbes, Fortune or CEO world is that one size does not fit all. The truth is that, more often than not, a leader’s success or failure is about the energy, enthusiasm, ambition and commitment of the people they are fortunate or unfortunate enough to lead rather than the qualities of the leader her or himself.
There are many historic and contemporary examples of leaders with a successful and credible military or business track record who fail miserably. Conversely there are equally as many cases of terrible leaders achieving amazing successes. I am aware that giving examples will reveal my personal biases and that would be neither as interesting nor useful for the purpose of this article than leaving it to you to recall your own based on your personal tastes, experiences and professional knowledge.
So, having written all that, I would like to propose a leadership style that I believe is urgently needed today and for the future.
I call it INTENTIONAL leadership. In fact, it’s less a style and more a way of being informed by the answer to this set of simple questions.
- What personal impact do you want to create as a leader?
- What effect do you want to see as a result of your impact?
To hone down your responses to these questions you can narrow your focus by thinking about the impact and effect you want to make on either a particular person, group of people, a place or specific situation. While this set of questions might seems fairly straight forward to answer, in my experience it takes a fair bit of thought to respond to them with any precision and clarity. The reason being that, you are not only identifying a vision and a set of goals, you are actually identifying and defining your authentic self.
I would hazard a guess here that most of us would claim to strive to be as authentic as we can in our dealings with others. However which self are we choosing to present as the authentic one?
The professional persona we present at work?
The private person at home?
Or for some of us, the party animal who emerges after a couple of glasses of alchohol?
The reality is that you are only as authentic as your behavior and the impact and effect that has on the world. When we begin to consider exploring authenticity from this perspective the leadership playing field becomes a little more muddy. But before we fall into an existential crisis, the concept of the Intentional leader may come to our rescue.
The intentional leader begins every act in service of a clear idea of the impact and effect he or she wants to create. Therefore, everything they feel, think, say and do is in total service of their intentions and, as a result, the Intentional leader is always, already authentic. Intentions and behavior are no longer a duality and the authentic self is no longer in danger of being a myth.
For example, you might want to create the kind of personal impact that leaves people feeling that you are approachable, friendly and open to new ideas.
The next question is why?
Perhaps your answer would be that you would like people to feel comfortable around you and also that you’d prefer people to like you.
The effect you might want is that people would come to you with solutions rather than just questions and problems.
Your answer to this second why question may reveal that your intention is to take the pressure off yourself by not being seen as someone who thinks they have all the solutions and therefore to make your job as a leader easier.
The next question can be formulated out of your exploration. Taking the example above, the question might be - Are you authentically someone who needs to be liked and wants to avoid responsibility?
In other words, regardless of what you think you are, it is your deepest intentions driven by what’s important for you in any given moment or situation that reveals who you really are…authentically. You may identify yourself as a happy, kind and generous person but how do you behave in each and every moment towards the people you live and work with? What are your intentions and how do they differ from your behavior? These are the key questions the Intentional leader must answer to ensure the authenticity of their intentions before presenting themselves in front of the people she or he has the privilege to lead.
Article by TBM