The Important Leadership Shift You Need to Make

Can you relate to this issue that most of my coaching clients are facing these days?

They’re “super busy” and feeling overwhelmed (or are on the verge of overwhelm) with an ever-increasing workload.  They’re reacting to a huge number of issues, and after one is resolved, it seems like three more take its place.

The idea of going home at the end of the day with a positive feeling of contribution feels completely elusive.

What about you? Have you decided that being in “reactive doing” mode is just the way it is these days? If so, what is your resignation to “reactive doing” costing you?


It’s time for a shift…to intentional leadership

Consider…what could you potentially gain from a shift to a more intentional approach to your leadership?

Here some possible benefits:

  • Improved results for you and your team
  • Productivity gains that are sustainable over the long term
  • Having accomplishments that really make a difference
  • A less stressful environment
  • More authentic relationships
  • A more engaged and motivated team
  • Having more of a life outside of work


Why it’s hard to change

The reality is that it’s not easy to make a shift from a reactive to an intentional approach.

Like many of us, I’m wired to go for the “quick hit” of an immediate win.  Requests, demands and issues grab our attention.   We can feel like they’re fires that need to be put out – and we can get a sense of satisfaction from dousing the flames.

Having an intentional, longer view to leadership requires the understanding that we’re shifting how we define success.

Like spending time on a fire prevention program, it means sacrificing that quick hit, in service of knowing that the investments we make in ideas, people and systems will ultimately bring us a greater satisfaction – the satisfaction that we’re really making a sustainable difference in our organizations and propelling our careers forward.


So what can you do?

You might be saying “That sounds great, but where do I start?”  Or if feel you’ve already been taking an intentional long-term approach, you might be asking “What more can I do?”

The first step is to really get clear on the benefits you will reap by shifting from “reactive doing” to “intentional leading.”  Decide if the benefits to you are worth it, and then make a commitment to trying out some new approaches to make the shift.

Here are some ideas that I support many of my coaching clients with, that you may wish to consider:


You probably have goals that you’ve laid out (or have been laid out for you) that you’re working toward.

But are you regularly taking the time to stand back and envision your preferred future, and what you really want to achieve?

Taking the time now, and then again at least once a quarter to envision the future, can be a valuable exercise.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is your organization trying to accomplish in the next few years? What will you (and your team) accomplish that’s in alignment with that outcome?
  • (Incorporating your team’s perspectives if you have one), what are the priorities that will make the biggest difference in getting you there?

Articulating your vision to your team in a way that evokes buy-in, and then getting their involvement in the priorities to accomplish it is key to actually getting it done.  Then keeping the big picture in top-of-mind during all of your interactions with your team keeps things focused on the long game.


When demands are flying at us from all angles, we can lose sight of how we’re spending our time and energy.  This calls for an honest assessment of where you spend your time now.

Take out your calendar and look at a typical week and figure out how you’re spending your time.

If you want to use a structure, Steven Covey’s classic Time Management Matrix can help you see how much time you’re spending on the “important not urgent” tasks that constitute leading intentionally.  Things like visioning, planning, creative thinking, development and relationship-building.

Depending on how senior you are in your organization, a good target for these “intentional leading” activities would be 40-75% of your time.  Are you at the level you need to be?


If you’re like many who complete this assessment, you’ll find that you’d benefit from increasing the time spent on “intentional leading” activities to address the priorities identified for yourself and your team.

The next challenge is to carve this time out of an already crammed schedule.

There’s only one way…a question you’ll continually need to ask yourself is “What do I need to say ‘no’ to?”

What’s taking up your time, attention, focus and energy, that isn’t in line with your top priorities?  Performance coach Darren Hardy suggests looking at all of your tasks then use the “3 D’s”…What do you need to Drop? Delegate? Defer?


Taking out your calendar every week and blocking time to focus on your top priorities is a key way to shift to “intentional leading.”

Read more about this in my previous post The #1 Way to Increase Your Productivity.


If you have a team, any shift to “intentional leading” will only be effective if you include them in the exercise.

Some of the key things to keep in mind when doing this include:

  • Developing and empowering your team – investing the time in ensuring they’re equipped to shift toward the future you’ve envisioned (and that they’re equipped to develop their own team, if they have one).
  • Recognizing and appreciating people – continually focusing on building on strengths, championing and celebrating victories.
  • Fostering collaboration – setting up structures to ensure that people are regularly coming together to share views and support each other.

It’s not easy, but those who’ve made the shift have experienced the satisfaction of knowing it’s worth it.


How will you make the shift?