The Best Way to Practice Intentional Leadership in 2023

I recently read this Forbes article written by Rodger Dean Duncan“Why ‘Caring’ is a Must-Have Ingredient in Effective Leadership,” and it brought tears to my eyes. The article featured the story of a newly appointed president and CEO who exemplified extraordinary leadership. The business was failing, and yet Jim Rainey came into his role with intentionality and committed to three words that would guide his actions no matter what: “integrity, trust, and respect.”

Within his first week as president and CEO, he noticed at a team meeting one of his direct reports talking with another about the fact that his wife was in the hospital. Jim checked in to see if she was okay, and the team member shared that his wife was having their first child. As quoted in the article, Jim responded, “Let me make a deal with you. I promise to give you a personal briefing on the outcome of this meeting if you’ll rush over to the hospital where you belong. You’ll get only one chance to witness the birth of your baby, and you don’t want to miss it.”

What profound leadership Jim showed in his actions, seeing with clarity that his new role may have been the biggest moment of his life, but for the father-to-be, his greatest moment did not exist in that room. In this one interaction, and because Jim knew what he wanted to create in his leadership, he not only showed “integrity, trust, and respect,” he earned it as well.

One thing I always share with the leaders I coach and when facilitating our Leadership Evolution Program is that, as leaders, we have an opportunity to be the best leaders our direct reports have ever known, not just in their careers but in their lifetime. It doesn’t come easy. You must develop your self-awareness to have the ability to achieve this, be intentional about what you are creating, and fully invest in your team in a way that reflects your intention. However, when you do this, you cultivate a thriving culture in which your team members are growing, engaged, and committed to your success as much as you are to theirs.

I invite you to consider the three words that you would like to define your leadership in 2023.

What would they be? 

Does your leadership reflect them now? 

How so?

If not, what would it take for your leadership to demonstrate your three words?

Choosing three words that describe your leadership may sound like a simple exercise at first, and yet you might be surprised to discover how difficult it is to decide on only three. Take your time to fully understand the reason behind the three words chosen and what they mean for you and your team. Remember, these three words reflect our intention. They show our commitment. They become our guide in every action we take, and they help us decide what is best at that moment.

For example, in Jim’s story, his three words were “integrity, trust, and respect.” With these three words in mind, there was no hesitation about giving the direct report the day off to be there for the delivery of his baby because, for Jim and his team member, it was just the right thing to do. This is what happens when we are purposeful in choosing our three words and actively practice them. Intentional leadership and the decisions we make in response become automatic.

When we are purposeful in choosing and following our three words, we also achieve a greater positive impact within our team. Think about what Jim’s direct report must have felt at that moment. I am sure that he felt pulled to be with his wife but also to make a good impression on his new boss. It is a common scenario for more of our direct reports than we might think that need to choose between work and family. What impact do you believe you can make within your team by practicing your three words and being intentional in your leadership? How might the organizational or team culture change for the better?

Three words. It’s one of the best exercises we can complete to set us on a path of intention and begin making the difference that we want in our leadership. Three words help us become the best, most effective leader we can be.

What three words will you choose in 2023?

We would love to hear from you and support you in your intention. Be sure to take a moment to share your three words in the comments.

Looking to learn more about a more effective leader? We help leaders of Fortune 500 companies and national organizations better understand the actions they can take that work best for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. Contact us to learn more about our executive coaching opportunities and Leadership Evolution Program at [email protected]. We will talk soon.