My simplified interpretation of intentional leadership


We’re hearing it everywhere in the leadership, human resources and organizational development worlds. Intentional leadership is a new term coined for the same old common sense behaviors of successful leaders. Yes, the world is changing and we need to change with it. Certainly. But many, if not most, of the characteristics and attributes of the most successful leaders have stayed the same for decades and centuries.

So, you want to be a great leader? Everyone is telling you to be an intentional leader and you’re Googling it all over the web and maybe seeing if there’s a book on intentional leadership at Barnes and Noble, right? Well let me simplify it for you. Profanity alert! Here’s my interpretation for you: I like to call intentional leadership, “give a shit leadership.”

Many people have been asking me things like:

  • How do you lead when you have so much pressure coming downwards and your workload seems impossible to accomplish?
  • How do you fix the problems for your team when your own leadership isn’t doing anything? It starts from the top, right?
  • How do you make people happy at work when they can’t even do their jobs right?
  • How do you engage employees who can’t even get along with each other?

My answer, again, is simple: give a shit. Why? Because if you give a shit, you would realize that all the questions above are just excuses. Here’s how I like to think of it. Not all but I would say most people in our society claim that “family comes first.” We’ve all heard that. People live by it too. If there’s a family emergency, people forget about their work, their friends and everything else and attend to their emergency. Even at work, our organizations and our managers have a soft spot for people when something happens to an employee’s family.  

Essentially, we love our families and therefore, we would do anything for them. We hear stories all the time about how people have a black sheep in the family who can’t seem to get their lives together and mooches off of the rest of the family. Yet, we let them…because they’re family. Or, if we have a very sick family member, we don’t care if the doctor told us what we need to do; we get a second opinion…and probably a third and fourth. We do whatever it takes to make sure that we’re making the right decisions for them.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to all start loving our work and our employees as much as our families. I am, however, suggesting that if we actually cared, genuinely cared, about our work and our employees and the doing right by both, great leadership would not seem so impossible. If you genuinely want to lead people, you will lead them. Simple. Simple in concept, that is.

Put aside the leadership books and the traditional rules of the road. None of it matters without step one, which is to give a shit. If you care enough about the team that you are leading, the project that you are leading or the organization that you are leading, you will do whatever it takes to be successful. It won’t always be easy. You’ll face a lot of obstacles but if you give a shit, you’ll find a way to overcome them. You’ll encounter naysayers but if you give a shit, you’ll find a way to engage them. You’ll face problem employees and unethical behaviors but if you give a shit, you’ll find a way to deal with them. You’ll run into roadblocks or brick walls but if you give a shit, you’ll find a way to break down all the barriers.

Not everyone wants to be or should be in leadership, even if they think otherwise, and that is completely okay but if you’re going to commit to a leadership role, don’t make excuses as to why you’re not successful because if you give a shit, you’re more than halfway there. Just think about anything else in the world you care about and how you would do anything for it. People who really care about their health go to extremes to stay healthy. People who really care about the environment go to great lengths voluntarily to ensure that the environment is safe. In fact, think about all volunteers. They do what they do because they really care about it; clearly, not because they are getting paid to do it.

Intentional leadership is about not giving up when times get tough. It’s about trying again when you fail or trying something else when you fail again. It’s about picking yourself and your team up when you fall down. It’s about giving a shit when other people could care less. 

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One thought on “My simplified interpretation of intentional leadership

  1. Pingback: Starstruck – #ASHHRA16 Recap | OD Advocate

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