Intentionality versus Authenticity

Balaji Krishnamurthy

Intentionality is central to the message we deliver in all of our workshops. If you have ever heard me speak anywhere, you probably heard the word "intentional" multiple times in multiple forms. When we talk about leadership we declare that leadership cannot be taught, learnt or imitated; it has to be developed - developed intentionally. We encourage leaders to write their Leadership Agenda, a short (hopefully, one-page) statement of your style of leadership. Writing a Leadership Agenda makes you an intentional leader.

Does being intentional make you authentic to your intentions?

Unfortunately, no! Anybody can write on a piece of paper the most glorious of intentions. The difficult part is to live it in your day-to-day life. You have to become what you intend to be. That is what makes you authentic. Intentionality is exactly what it says: intent, not reality. It is when you actualize your intentions you become authentic. Intentionality is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for authenticity.

We are often asked whether your Leadership Agenda should be about who you are or who you would like to be.

If intentionality is a precursor to authenticity, should your intentionality reflect who you are today so that you can be authentic to it?

We advise to the contrary. We advise leaders to create in their Leadership Agenda a delicate balance of reality and aspirations - enough reality for it to be credible to others, and enough aspiration for it to be inspirational to yourself. In my own Leadership Agenda I proclaim, "Elevate the truth, without blame or judgment." Most who know me would attest to my authenticity in living the first half of that claim. I wish I could get a similar level of endorsement for the second half.

We advise leaders to not only write down their leadership intentions, but to vocalize them.

Vocalizing your intentions could take many forms and might address varied audiences. It could be a full-blown presentation to a group of employees, or it could be an intentional reference of a phrase during a corridor conversation. It could be an elevator pitch of your intentions that you repeatedly invoke, or it could be a behavior, called for in your intentions, that you repeatedly demonstrate.

For example, I repeatedly point out to people that my style of leadership is to "Question the obvious, rationalize the outrageous, and ponder the consequences." "Be the first to clap," says David Baker, CEO of Think Shift, in his Leadership Agenda. So, he DOES! Every time! Rob Connelly, President of Henny Penny says in his Leadership Agenda, "Savor the moment, while always learning for a better tomorrow." By repeatedly invoking the phrase he reminds others and himself of his intentions. Constant and repeated delivery (invocations) of your style of leadership serves two purposes. It tells all around you that you lead intentionally. It serves as a constant reminder to become what you intend to be.

Writing a Leadership Agenda makes you intentional. Delivering your Leadership Agenda makes you authentic.

For those of you who have written a Leadership Agenda, this should serve as a reminder to constantly deliver it. For those of you who have not written one, consider writing your Leadership Agenda. Intentionality is a precursor to authenticity. But authenticity should be your goal. Authenticity is a way of being - being authentic to your intentions.

Food for Thought is our way of sharing interesting concepts on corporate leadership and management with others who might find it useful. The thoughts offered are intended to be controversial and thought provoking. They are intended to help our readers intentionally realize their potential, what we call Potentionality.

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