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Having had the wonderful experience of being a speaker on the same conference agenda as England’s Prime Minister (1979-1990) Margaret Thatcher, I vividly remember her referring to the importance of deliberate leadership. In fact, she wrote, “I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society… from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. I deliberately worked with my colleagues to create a get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain. Being deliberate worked.”

Being deliberate means having a crystal clear idea of what you want to achieve and accomplish. Your threshold question should be “What’s most important to me?" Once you define “what’s important,” then the next step is commitment (intentionality) on your part to take all the actions necessary to meet your defined objectives. That’s intentionality. When one has a deliberate, intentional focus on what’s important and what needs to be done to achieve defined goals, success typically follows.

Intentional people who act deliberately are usually action-oriented and have a strong willpower to succeed, achieve and accomplish.

Before you can be “deliberate” or “intentional,” you must develop the skill to creatively visualize the specific results or “end game” you are pursuing. Once you clearly visualize those specific results from the objectives you have defined, setting a deliberate, intentional path of action logically and easily follows.

I ascribe to nine important compelling imperatives for developing deliberate, intentional leadership. They are…

  1. Make each day filled with a deliberate mindset
  2. Clearly define your desired outcomes
  3. Rank order your priorities
  4. Manage your time in a deliberate manner
  5. Share your plans with others and welcome feedback
  6. Be committed to your intentions
  7. Remain positive regardless of the challenges
  8. Revisit and review the outcome
  9. Course correct if necessary

Deliberate leaders think first and act second. They are methodical and logical. They are also disciplined and focused. Usually, deliberate leaders are overly risk averse. However, once they make a decision, their intent will rarely waiver and they are highly focused. Deliberate leadership is unemotional, absolutely analytical and specific.

Fortunate to have had a business relationship with media mogul, visionary and entrepreneur Ted Turner, sometime ago I asked him if he missed being the owner of the Atlanta Braves… a few years after Time-Warner bought his team. His response, and I paraphrase, was something to the effect of, “I certainly loved owning the Atlanta Braves but make no mistake, I purchased the Braves from Milwaukee because I needed a media product for my television network, TBS… ‘The Super Station.’ Owning a team with red, white and blue colors and intentionally calling them ‘America’s Team’ built my viewership nationally by creating Braves fans in places like Omaha, Wichita, Des Moines and other cities with no professional baseball allegiance.”

That was clearly an example of “intentional” leadership obviously marked by vision, focus and done deliberately. You see cable television was in its infancy in the mid-1970’s and Ted Turner was clearly one of the first people to realize its enormous potential. As he deliberately built his WTBC (Channel 17) into a national cable “superstation,” owning the Braves meant he could beam its signal and games nationwide. This was no accident. This was all intentional.

Great leaders typically “lead by example.” On a market tour in Columbus, Ohio years ago with Wendy’s founder and CEO Dave Thomas, I vividly remember that every time we pulled into another Wendy’s parking lot… Thomas walked the perimeter of the store and picked up any trash he found in the lot before ever entering the restaurant for a tour. Clearly, he was sending a message to restaurant employees to police the store’s parking pad and clean up any liter they found. Yes, it was leading by example… however, he shared with me that walking a store’s perimeter and picking up trash was an intentional, deliberate act on his behalf. It wasn’t spontaneous nor unusual. It was deliberate. Twenty years later, that deliberate act of leadership is still one of my foremost memories of my brief time with legendary entrepreneur Dave Thomas.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials, “FDR,” served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. He was a masterful orator who used various speaking techniques to grab, maintain and ultimately persuade his audiences to a point of view.

For instance, in the middle of one of his speeches, FDR… on the verge of making a major statement of global importance… intentionally paused his remarks, picked up a pitcher of water and slowly, very slowly poured the liquid into a glass, then he deliberately drank the water gulp by gradual gulp for emphasis. Then, obviously having captured his audience’s undivided attention, would continue his speech.

FDR was an intentional leader. FDR was a disciplined, focused, deliberate leader. He firmly believed that success is deliberate and excellence is intentional.

Whether it’s a programmed, purposeful pause before you answer a question of great importance, or your calling a “time out” to think deeply on a threshold opportunity brought to you, or your demanding more data and analytics on a subject before you make a decision, be deliberate, be thoughtful and be intentional. I believe strongly that great success is directly correlative to great deliberate and intentional action.

Author Alan Cohen said it well, “When your intention is clear, so is the way.”


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