I asked a dad one time how his family was doing. He replied after a short pause, “Well, nobody’s crying. So I guess everything is fine.” That comment is quite common among dads in particular and many leaders in general. It says a lot about how they view their role as a leader.
Many leaders see their primary function as that of a first-responder (or actually a second-responder after Mom!). They are like firemen or those working in emergency services (who perform an invaluable service to us by way) who wait at their respective stations for a crisis to happen. When the alarm goes off, they spring into action. That’s why they are called first-responders. There is a place for response with a leader. Good leadership, though, requires much more. It requires being an intentional leader.
What does it take to be a more intentional leader? Let me suggest three key things.
1. Think it –
It has to become a mindset, a way of thinking. I love college football. One of the universities at which we’ve had the privilege of working was the University of Alabama. While we were there, we worked with a number of the Crimson Tide football players. One of the players was the quarterback. In watching him in that role, I was reminded that the quarterback is the one who starts everything. He knows that everyone and everything is waiting on him. That’s the mindset a leader needs to have. You have your team around you but everything starts with you. The leader must realize that he/she is the One.
I’m reminded of the old adage that describes three types of people:
—Those who make things happen.
—Those who watch what happens.
—And those who say, “What happened?”
I like the quote that Dr. Henry Cloud uses in his book, Boundaries for Leaders, that “You are ridiculously in charge.” You’re not only in charge. You’re are in charge more than you realize. That’s a mindset. A leader needs to begin each day with that thought and remind himself/herself of it throughout the day. You are the One. Intentionality requires this particular mindset.
2. Plan it – be deliberate.
You can’t be intentional without some planning, some purposeful forethought. Good leadership doesn’t just happen. In football, the game plan starts way before the game as the coaches and quarterbacks review their next opponent and plan accordingly. Hours go in to watching game films and developing a strategy, a game plan to win. They do not go in blind.
Even within the game, planning continues. Before the quarterback starts each play, he huddles up with his team. He assesses the current realities – where they are on the field, which down they’re on, what’s been working against their opponent thus far, and how much time is left on the clock. Based on those assessments, he calls the appropriate next play. Imagine the confusion if he didn’t do that. What if he told his team to simply go up to the line of scrimmage and do whatever they wanted to do? That he would merely react to what they do? What would happen? Chaos and confusion. Instead of running the ball down the field, they would be running into each other.
Planning takes a lot of time and work, though. That’s why most of us parents and leaders don’t do it. It’s easier to just let things happen and try and manage the chaos at acceptable levels. That’s generally a losing game plan. Intentionality requires purposeful planning.
3. Act it – do something.
Having the mindset of a quarterback and even doing the planning of one doesn’t move the ball down the field until you start the play. The QB has to take the ball in his hands and start the play in motion. He has to literally get it out of the playbook and onto the field. I see many leaders who could be called with a “delay of game” penalty on this one. They have the play. They know what to do. They are standing over the ball. The team is in place. But for some reason, they never put the ball in play. And then time runs out. A missed opportunity. Many of us are like that. We have the best of intentions but never hike the ball. And then we wonder why we don’t see the results we wanted.
What does it really take? Just taking that first step. It may not even be the very best step you could take, but what a difference it makes for you to make the move. I love the Nike slogan – Just Do It. So simple and yet so true. Intentionality requires action.
Question: As you look at your leadership, are you the one who makes things happen through intentionality or the one who merely asks, “What happened?” You can leave a comment by clicking here.