Intentional Leadership: The Big 8 Skills of Effective Leadership
QHE leadership context has changed. It’s more complicated, and the values that need to be addressed have changed. What we covered before now demands our attention and action. Often this requires us to be more intentional about relationships.
Rose Patten put it this way Intentional Leadership: “The leadership spotlight has shifted to how people lead in challenging and changing situations. Innovative models, digitalization, technologies—these are all important. But more important is how leaders lead other people.”
Good leadership happens when someone, through purpose, has a positive impact – whether through empathy, inspiration, or wisdom. While some people seem to do it naturally, most of us—if we have the will—can learn it and continue to do it better.
We have to start with our thinking. Our thoughts have consequences. This is where we begin to develop our influence and impact. Patten identifies four common beliefs that hinder our success as a leader:
- Leadership is timeless: once a great leader, always a great leader.
- Slower skills will improve, just give them time.
- High performance equals high potential for leadership.
- Mentors are important mostly for lower level leadership.
If these false beliefs are part of our thinking, then we will not take the steps necessary to respond to our leadership environment with the changed capabilities that are required of us. These can be blind spots—unspoken beliefs that control our behavior—that, on a conscious level, we never acknowledge. Therefore, we need to examine ourselves to find out where our behaviors are inconsistent with what we say we believe.
Leaders rely on, and are guided by, their own level of self-awareness, gained from self-reflection and feedback from others. This enables them to take deliberate, deliberate action to examine and adjust their thinking.
The Big 8
The Big 8 capabilities were created to meet the needs of the changing leadership environment and to counter the false beliefs that may creep into our thinking. A healthy self-awareness is not anymore for all of the Big 8. They are not a definitive list of desired characteristics but rather a map of self-reflection and intentional change for the leadership context we face today.
It does not address all the skills that leaders are expected to possess. Instead, the Big 8 offers the solution for leaders to be more effective and more balanced in their leadership.
The Big 8 #1: Personal Adjustment
Adaptability is the most important capacity. “Adaptation, open-mindedness, and change overlap, one leading to the other. Open-mindedness makes adaptation possible; with adaptability, the hope of change is possible.” This is what it means to be a lifelong learner. Adaptation requires accepting different perspectives and being willing to be uncomfortable.
The Big 8 #2: Strategic Agility
In a constantly changing environment, strategies don’t last long. Success depends on commitment and our ability to be adaptable and creative. It’s a mindset issue. Can we adapt to “the fact that strategies have a shelf life regardless of how successful they have been in the past?” A leader needs the mindset of what Patten calls the three A’s: Assess regularly, adjust boldly, and act urgently. “The leader needs strategic agility, starting with personal adjustment and overlaid with critical thinking.”
The Big 8 #3: Self-Change
Learnability—discovering what you don’t know. Pride leads to regret. Patten reflected, “In my own leadership experiences, learning comes from mistakes and from admitting that you don’t have all the answers. Being teachable and open and interacting with other great people, including teachers, helped me a lot. Having a need to know things and a persistent curiosity also feeds into learning. Whether it comes from natural curiosity or through intentionality – it is welcome and has the effect of becoming a better leader.
The Big 8 #4: Confidence in Character
“Character is not a victim of circumstances; it will live in spite of them.” Character is doing the right thing regardless of the circumstances. Patten offers five leadership checks for leaders: Keeping your word (Integrity), Looking to yourself for reason (Responsibility), Sticking your neck out (Courage), Forgiving the mistakes of others (Forgiveness ), and Putting oneself in another’s shoes ( Empathy).
The Big 8 #5: Empathy
Naturally, empathy helps you connect with others. Not just understanding others but understanding your impact on them—putting yourself in their shoes. This allows you to adjust your behavior to the situation.
The Big 8 #6: Communication in Context
Leaders must explain not only the WHAT but the Why– the context. “Communicating without a “why,” without a purpose, but only through ‘the what’ won’t do for today’s workforce. More than expressing respect, communicating the ‘why’ builds trust.” Leaders must go beyond the analytical mindset to consider emotions and understand the state of mind of others by identifying preconceptions.
The Big 8 #7: Passionate Collaboration
Patten calls it passionate collaboration because it enables and encourages “disagreement, with the ultimate goal of reaching a better outcome. A harmonious group of like minds becomes an echo chamber of agreement.” .A leader who does not allow different opinions and ideas for improvement will perform suboptimally. Collaboration means listening carefully, understanding motives, and depersonalizing ideas.
The Big 8 #8: Developing Other Leaders—Not Just Followers
“The transformation in the way we lead from command and control to connect and collaborate means that leaders will do more than empower and distribute leadership in the workplace.” Developing leaders is not just about time and experience. It goes beyond teaching technical skills. A development approach of 70-20-10 is recommended: 70% real-time apprentice-like learning, 20% mentoring, and 10% classroom-type resources.
Follow us on Instagram and Twitter for more ideas on leadership and personal development.