Are You an Intentional Leader?

intentional leader

Most leaders would answer this with a solid “yes”. That’s because they judge their level of thought, analysis, and response to any given situation to be thorough, deliberate, and undeterred. But, if you sent out a 360-degree evaluation to their employees the responses that came back may tell another story. Regardless of how intentional leaders think they are, it is their employees who truly know them.

The way people engage you in the workplace is based on their perception of your intentionality. People working in organizations with unintentional leaders are cynical about why their leaders want something done. Closure is not valued in the organization and the work quality suffers as a result. Negativity and avoidance dominate the work environment.

On the flip side, intentional leaders have a lot of credibility related to “why” they want something done and if it is worth doing. Work in this type of organization is completed as requested and its intended results are apparent. The work environment is positive and engaging.

Intentionality is all about time and effort. It means learning what you need to know to plot a good course, make a decision, or take action. It also means being aware of the volume and pace of work within your organizations related to other priorities, staying the course, and seeing things to the end.

Being intentional is not a true/false thing; it’s a continuum. Your intentionality varies as your behavior varies during different efforts, such as:

Effort Time-Frame
Requests Days
Projects Months
Initiatives 1-3 Years
Strategies 3-5 Years


It is far easier for a leader to be intentional on requests with their employees because it only involves days to initiate, monitor, and complete them. There is minimal time and effort involved. Being intentional in strategy, however, is a lot harder as the amount of time and effort to learn what you need to know to plot a good course, be aware of the volume and pace of work, and stay the course is far greater. So, a leader can be more intentional when the time-frames are smaller and end up being less so when they are longer.

As was stated earlier, the best way to identify how intentional you are as a leader is to observe how employees engage you related to work. Let’s look at each context time frames and the signs your employees may give you to indicate whether or not you are being perceived as intentional.


Not intentional: The more time employees put between your request and its fulfillment the greater chance you will forget about it. They may say when you remind them of the request that they were just about to do it but in reality they will avoid you until you forget about it.

Intentional: Employees either complete the request or tell you they will get it done by a certain date without you having to remind them.


Not intentional: Project delays are measured in half-life’s, like radioactive materials. The end deliverables are completed haphazardly without attention to detail. Employees just want to close the project out and move on to anything else.

Intentional: Regular status is delivered by employees and reviewed together. There is a lot of attention paid to the end deliverable to make sure it hits the mark.


Not intentional: Initiatives are like gases. In the right environment they take on a liquid form that employees can grasp, but without attention they become vapor and vanish into the air, never to be seen or heard from again. Employees show excitement in the beginning but wonder off when attention isn’t paid anymore.

Intentional: No matter how long the initiative lasts, employees can clearly articulate the future state and its benefit to the organization. Employees enjoy looking back and seeing the transformation and evolution of their collective efforts.


Not intentional: These do not exist and are never discussed by employees within the organization. Work life is a series of non-related events that must be carried out without a higher purpose.

Intentional: It is hard for employees to totally connect with a strategy. It may be too broad or sophisticated, but when it is brought up by the leader time and time again, employees slowly start to connect with it.

It takes focus, discipline, and dedication to be intentional. Not everyone has these traits, and as a result, struggles to be intentional. If you are in this situation, try partnering with a peer in your company and leverage their strengths in these areas to help you compensate for your weaknesses. It does not need to be on a day-to-day basis; monthly can help a whole bunch. Also, avoid getting too busy and overwhelmed; it is a natural predator to intentionality.

If you are feeling risky and ready for some straight feedback, create an assessment out of the above text and ask your employees to rate you on a scale for each time frame. The feedback may hurt a little but your employees will be glad you asked and ready to support you more in the future.