Over the next few months I would like to share with you some ideas that come from my most recent book, The Empowering Leader: 12 Values to Supercharge Your Leadership, which I co-authored with Stephen Sokolow (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017). The idea behind the book is that whether you are a leader, a teacher, a parent, or even a friend, the most important thing you can do is find ways of helping others become their best selves. A couple months ago I shared the idea of using your own unique gifts and talents to bring out the best in others. This month I would like to share some of the ideas that revolve around manifesting our intentions. Put more simply, how do you, like Captain Picard in Star Trek, “make it so” in your organization or your life?
When you come right to it, intention is the framework for creating reality. Even before you create a plan, you must have an intention. When you send out your intentions to the universe or even to those around you, it creates a sense of energy. It is like a stone skipping across a pond. Each time the stone touches the water, it creates a series of ever-expanding concentric circles. But most of us don’t fully appreciate the power of intention, and because we have so many things in our life that we want to do, our intention gets muddled and loses its power.
Behind our goals lies our intention. Our goal may be to lose weight, but our intention is to be healthy and perhaps even attractive. The intention is that which underlies the movement towards action. It is important to understand that intention towards helping others is the most powerful kind of intention we can have. Helping ourselves only helps one person; helping others makes the world a better place. And empowering others is the most important thing you can do for another person.
You start your intention with a thought. Thoughts are the “Energizer Bunnies” of our beings. But thoughts aren’t simply private musings. Once you think something, it goes out beyond you. If you get up in the morning and are in a bad mood, you might think the thoughts you are having are private, but everyone around you gets the message that you aren’t in a good place. Your thoughts manifest themselves in the real world.
But you must go beyond merely thinking. Writing and speaking your intention acts like an accelerant for it. It takes the thought and puts it into concrete terms. It becomes a clear sharing of what you hope to see happen. When you share your intention through words, it puts more power behind it and also enlists others in seeing the intention into reality.
It is critical that you align your thoughts, words, and actions. We hear the word integrity a lot. What does it mean? Quite simply, integrity means integration. You have integrated your thoughts, your words, and your actions. We are all too familiar with leaders who speak one way but act another. No one takes them seriously because they lack integrity. So, as your intention is shared you have to make certain that your actions align with that intention. If your intention is to get healthy by losing weight, but if you are constantly sneaking sweets into your diet, you haven’t integrated your thoughts with your deeds.
When your intention is powerful (and powerful intentions tend to benefit others), people are drawn to helping you. You are enlisting others in the action. As you remain clear on what you want to see happen and where you want to see others go, it clarifies for others what they must do. As you gain consistency in your actions, this creates clarity.
It is crucial for all of us to have a sense of foreground and background. I call it “bi-focal” vision. You have to see what is up close and recognize the things right under your feet that might trip you up. But you also need to have a sense of the distant picture because that frames what you are doing. It also allows you to see the place you are going. It is important for leaders in any arena to understand that they should be windows for the organization as well as mirrors. Mirrors are useful in letting you reflect on what is happening. But windows allows you to see in both directions. You can look inside and outside.
It is important to remember that you have to use attention to manifest intention. You have to draw people’s eyes to what is hoped for. Think of the historic town crier who would walk through the town bellowing out the news. His intention was sharing the news, but by yelling it out loud, he was able to draw attention to it, which allowed others to focus on what he was sharing. Good leaders, in any form, draw attention to the work.
Manifesting intention requires you to marshal all your energy towards the ultimate goal. You have to enlist others in the work. That means you need to have developed positive relationships and connections. You have to persevere and maintain your commitment over time. All of us would probably like to be rich, but that won’t happen by singing a few bars of “Wouldn’t it Be Nice?” or by buying a lottery ticket. Whatever you want to see happen in your life and in the lives of those around you, you must create a powerful intention and use all your resources to make it so.