Understanding the five elements of intentionality can drastically impact the potential influence that we have on others. Intentionality is an art, one that can easily differentiate between ordinary and extraordinary leaders. It allows leaders to be different, counteracting what the world expects of us.
I will share this confession with you, I strongly desire to be an intentional person. In all aspects of my work life, volunteer life, and personal life, I want to be seen as intentional by those I love and care for.
My life has been shaped and molded by people who were intentional in their investment in me: mentors, coaches, teachers, pastors, family, and friends. My gratitude for their efforts significantly enhance my desire to be the same way. Why? Because of how their intentionality made me feel. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” These special people are simply intentional.
Intentions Do Not Determine Direction
Unfortunately, intention doesn’t always determine direction in life. As much as I desire to be intentional, that isn’t always where my feet land. I can easily fall short of my personal desire to be.
Unfortunately, intentionality is at constant tension with my busy life. That busyness can easily suffocate my intentionality. My lack of intentionality impedes my ability to positively influence people in my worlds of life and leadership.
Here is what I know…not once have I ever regretted the work put into applying intentionality to someone. It makes the people I love and care for come alive. In this post, I wanted to share the five elements of intentionality I desire to apply in my world:
By nature, I am as predictable as it gets. I prefer to be planned and prepared. My adaptive behavior has learned how to be random. I find great joy in people’s reaction to a good, random act of intentionality.
Most people you lead have an expectation of what a boss should be. They expect the meetings, the evaluations, the feedback, the direction, etc. They do not expect intentionality in the form of randomness. In the eyes of the recipient, intentionality is best delivered randomly, when they least expect it.
One of the most meaningful things we can do as a leader is to do the unexpected. It makes people feel special. Bringing them a cup of coffee, picking up biscuits to deliver them to a jobsite, grabbing some treats from the local bakery to take to the office, or providing unexpected presence on a tough day. Intentional leaders are full of randomness.
Webster’s Dictionary defines intentionality as, “done by intention or design.” Design is the key part of this definition. When you design something, it requires thorough planning.
At first glance, this clearly contradicts the value of randomness, but it also enhances it. Random still requires being planned. As stated earlier, random is in the eyes of the recipient, not the issuer. The issuer of intentionality puts great thought into the implementation of randomness. The meticulous details that make an ordinary experience, extraordinarily special.
The issuer puts all the details in place that leads to the execution of random. They think through all the pertinent information that makes an experience special for the recipient. Intentional leaders are planned.
I have read various studies that show the human heart can be felt from three to five feet away. Human beings are intuitive and can easily assess the authenticity of another person.
If the motive of an intentional act is to get someone to do something for your own benefit, that is called manipulation. Pure motives applied to intentionality breathe life into people, not rob them of it. The leader’s authentic motive is to express their love and care for another person through intentionality.
Have you ever been genuinely intentional with someone? Their eyes light up, their smile brightens the room, you feel the impact of on their heart. A reaction worthy of clearing the calendar to deliver daily. Intentional leaders have pure motive.
I find personality and behavioral profiles extremely helpful as a leader. Whether it is DISC, Myers-Briggs, Working Genius, Five Voices, or Five Love Languages, all of these can greatly assist a leader in knowing their people better. The results are basically a cheat sheet to the wiring of the individual.
They help me know how they need to be communicated to, whether I need to be direct or whether I need to be relational in conversation. I learn their natural giftedness as a person such as whether they are dominant, people-orientated, consistent, or detailed. It teaches me their strengths we need to capitalize on and the weaknesses we need to be cognizant of.
Intentional leaders study their people. They listen carefully to their likes, their passions. In general conversations the leader picks up on queues of what makes as a person tick. They make mental notes on key details. Details that far exceed the contents of a personality or behavioral profile like their spouse’s name, how many kids they have, the status of an ill parent, how many creams and sugars they prefer in their coffee, their favorite adult beverage, foods they are allergic to, and so much more.
Do we know the stories of the people we lead? The successes, the hardships, the failures, the tragedies? Lead with questions, learn with questions. Intentional leaders are studious.
Once we become studious, we can apply intentionality through thoughtfulness. We then understand that the little things make a huge impact.
When we bring that random cup of coffee, with three creams and one sugar, it becomes thoughtful. When we stop by their office door to ask about their parent, how their kid’s birthday party went this past weekend, or how their spouse (by name) is doing, it demonstrates thoughtfulness. Anytime we are aware of someone walking through a tough season a hand-written note, a word of encouragement, or simple curiosity of how they are doing sends a strong message of thoughtfulness.
Thoughtful leaders are high quality people. Great leaders are intentional by being thoughtful.
In seventh grade a kid in my class wrote these words on the chalkboard, “Trying is one step closer to failure.” Extremely poor advice, I have no clue why that Stuck with me, and I’m pretty sure old Luke never amounted to much in life with that mindset.
His statement was grounded in fear. Most of us are intimidated by the fear of being intentional. We are concerned about how the message will be received, that the intentional act may fall flat. Never have I ever applied intentionality towards someone and ever regretted it. Intentionality always hits the mark and never falls short, it never fails. The trying implies effort. Effort is always appreciated by others even if things don’t go exactly as planned.
The application of these five elements of intentionality can change your leadership world, it has mine. If this is too complicated of a message, just remember this…intentionality is grounded in love. Be the intentional leader you are called to be, for those that need you to be.