Leading with Intention: Leadership Lessons That Will Set You Up for Success

June 6, 2018

Stacey Hawes

As president, data practice for Epsilon, Stacey oversees Epsilon’s data business in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. Stacey serves on the Board of Directors for the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), in 2017 she was named an IAB Data Rockstar for demonstrated excellence in data science, and a 2017 Ad Age Woman to Watch for her contributions to the industry and for driving women forward in business.

We often hear the term “lead by example”—but what does that really mean?

While many claim to possess strong leadership prowess it isn’t as common as people think it is. Embodying and executing a holistic approach to leadership may seem daunting, but with the right strategies in place, you can learn to lead teams and organizations to success.

Great leaders can get more out of individuals and teams than people can get out of themselves. British polar explorer Ernest Shackleton is a great example of this. He set out in 1914 on the Shackleton Expedition in an effort to lead his team on the largest advance to the South Pole and while the expedition itself was deemed a colossal failure he has been studied by many executives as one of the greatest leaders of his time. Why? He was flexible and able to change course when disaster struck. He inspired optimism; developed a clear, shared purpose; built unity and commitment within his team; created a game plan; and made a lot of tough decisions along the way. These are all qualities great leaders should possess. While he wasn’t always successful he exhibited a holistic approach to ensuring that he, and his team, reached their goal (which ultimately ended up as survival) and championed the leadership qualities that keep many modern businesses afloat today.
While there is so much to be learned from people like Ernest, there are some fundamental principles that can help serve as guideposts for how best to lead today:

A leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way

In order to be able to lead the way for others, one must first understand what comprises leadership and, more importantly, what does not. There’s a significant difference between management and leadership, and this is a fact that is often overlooked in the workplace. Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal while leadership is an individual's ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.
A leader thinks about the end goal, is highly conscious of making choices that are impactful and is thoughtful. Above all, leading should be intentional, which entails doing something with purpose.

A leader values attitude and actions over words

Leadership is not just about a ranking order or empty promises, but more so about one’s ability to actually understand and inspire others, thus motivating others to achieve a common goal. Mindfulness and leadership go hand and hand: being mindful demonstrates that you can listen, care, can deal with complexity and are open to other ideas. This also requires a great deal of emotional intelligence: an ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

A leader learns from all levels

Successful leaders leave a true, measurable impact on those who follow and look up to them. They are inquisitive, they hire great talent that complements their skills, they communicate often, are inspirational and are true to themselves. Good leaders don’t get caught up in titles and rank—they aren’t afraid to ask for help, they seek out guidance and are humble and honest.

A leader serves, delegates with authority, and acts with humility

Building a recognizable culture and putting the right teams in place is central to strong leadership. Without the ability to find others who can complement your strengths and the ability to delegate the right work to the right people, teams would suffer. A strong leader knows what tasks only they can accomplish and they get them done. Then, they delegate the tasks that don’t fall into their expertise and ensure the right teams and tools are in place to carry out those tasks. 
What’s more, leaders build a culture that makes employees and team members excited to work hard each day. They do this by helping solve problems for their teams, recognizing their people, and celebrating successes. These leaders are servants, meaning that their overall goal is to serve others. They have a commitment to nurture others and create a community. Servant leadership, after all, is a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.

A leader gets results

With all of these qualities underway, the final test of leadership is producing results. Building a team and understanding their abilities is key, but driving quantifiable results matters in today’s corporate world. In order to achieve results, leaders must run to the problem, not away from it. They must also communicate in every direction: up, down and out. Leaders must be able to execute their game plan in high-pressure situations, and that often entails making difficult decisions. Those decisions will ultimately make the difference between failure and success.
Much in the same way that Ernest Shackleton successfully led his team, you, too, can practice effective leadership within your organization. It takes time, effort and persistence, but with the right tools and mindset in place, intentional leadership can be achieved.