Instincts & Intentionality. Its called Leadership!


What is leadership? Do you think we will ever finish answering the question?


Just last week one of my clients asked me to work on a fresh definition of leadership and I found myself taking a new look at answering this timeless question.


Two words came to mind: instincts and intentionality.


I have worked hard to train upcoming leaders (including my two sons) to trust their instincts and to take action or be intentional with those instincts. Being safe or too concerned about what others think simply doesn’t get the leadership job done. Leaders have to see what could be and should be and then they need take action on making it happen.


A classic exercise to identify leaders among fresh interns is to give the group a task and then watch and see who has influence and then uses that influence to solve the problem (what could be, what should be).


When I take on new clients, I always try to ask questions to explore their track record on what they have been able to accomplish through their leadership. Many times we can be fooled by their position or personality and we have to know what to look for in terms of solving a company’s problems.


Believe it or not, I sometimes find that the leader is really nothing more than a manager in terms of their core skills. They are much more talented at protecting (management) what they have inherited or created versus using their instincts and intentionality (leadership) to lead others to create what should be or could be.


A leader must know the difference between leadership and management. But they also must know what to do if they have drifted to far into management. Common language to describe this is “being in the weeds”, “focusing on too many details”, “micro-managing”, and “going vertical”.


If you have drifted into the weeks of your organization, consider doing the following exercise that will help you reset your mind so that you are focusing on what you are supposed to be focusing on.


In the next 2 weeks, block out 2.5 hours during the work day to be alone without distractions and interruptions. As you adjust to being quiet (of course your phone and computer are off not silenced) begin to list out the primary problems you are trying to solve for your company or organization. After you have listed 5-10 problems, then identify the top 3 problems that will make the biggest different to the company’s success. Finally, identify the #1 problem you are facing as a leader.


Ask yourself, “are most of the problems you are solving management problems or leadership problems?” Now, using your leadership instincts, identify the most strategic way you should go about solving the problem as a leader, not as a manager. The key is to get in touch with fresh perspective as to your role as the leader.


Do what leaders do. Trust your instincts and be intentional with what you know to be true.


Dr. Nathan Baxter

Executive Leadership Coach

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