Intentional Leadership: A Definition
Admittedly, I have been on a quest for that ideal definition of “leadership” that fully captures its essence. While I’m not sure that I’ll ever completely find it, I do believe that I have the responsibility to try. Here is my latest thinking:
“Leadership is the ability to inspire people to achieve specific goals based upon each person’s clearly defined principles.”
Ability – With the use of this word I’m assuming that the person either has the innate capability or is learning it. If I didn’t believe that people can learn to lead, I wouldn’t be an executive coach.
Inspire – One can get people to follow or do things by sheer force of will and history is loaded with examples of this. My thinking is that effective leaders motivate people to follow by appealing to them positively and intrinsically, not at gun-point (or by some other forceful method such as threat of losing one’s job).
People – I know that this should be assumed, but I sometimes have to remind leaders that they’re leading people and not just processes or activities. We’re leading moral beings who possess a unique blend of physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual capabilities.
Specific Goals – This phrase implies strategic and visionary thinking as well as consistent communication on the part of the leader. Where, exactly, are people being asked to go? How will they get there? What resources will they be given to achieve these goals?
Clearly Defined Principles – Most critically, this term implies that the leader and the followers are being highly intentional and acting on well-though-out and defined beliefs (i.e. ethical convictions). Such clarity will also challenge and inspire people to act based on their own best thinking. This is opposed to more reactive, automatic, and emotional responses which typically do not yield optimal results.