Setting leadership intentions and goals shouldn’t happen only on New Years. In fact, understanding how to set the right leadership intentions on a regular basis will help us towards reaching our personal and professional goals.

So what really is the difference between the intentions versus goals, how do we set intentions and why is it important to focus on both goal-setting and intention-setting?

We have all probably had the experience of setting goals and realizing that we need to pivot as time passes. We have also probably been way too critical of ourselves for doing so! As a result, we often feel discouraged, don’t end up reaching our goals and give up entirely.

Understanding the difference between goals and intentions will help us overcome these challenges and negative emotions associated with our journey to success. Moreover, we would then be able to properly leverage goal-setting and intention-setting in different ways to help us towards our personal and professional development.

Goals vs. Intentions

Goals can be defined as any desired future outcome that we want to achieve. By nature, they are often influenced by external situations and circumstances.

For example, if you have a goal to increase the retention rate on your team this coming year, you will likely need to come up with strategic steps to help you achieve that. 

Regardless of what action steps you decide to take, there are many external factors that likely will affect the progress and outcome of this goal (e.g. the employee’s engagement level, personal circumstances, etc.).

On the other hand, the definition of intentions is the purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct. They start from an internal place of identifying the type of person you want to be and how that affects your actions. Furthermore, your intentions should reflect your core values.

If you take the time to think through what your intentions are based on what you value, it is unlikely that you will need to adjust them throughout the year.

For example, you can set an intention to lead with more humility because you value a growth mindset and learning from others. From here, you can then think about specific actions you can take to be that humble leader you want to be.

Both are Important!

Both goals and intentions are absolutely necessary for our personal and professional development.

Intentions help to ground us in who we want to be and how we want to live. Goals can be actions that we identify that will help us live out those intentions.

The truth is that it is okay and sometimes necessary for goals to change and shift as time passes! What’s important is that we ensure our goals reflect our intentions.

(For more tips on goal-setting, refer to “Goal-Setting for Success Beyond SMART Goals.”)

How to Set the Right Leadership Intentions

When we set intentions, we start from an internal place. It is no different when it comes to leadership intentions.

Reflecting on who you want to be as a leader will help you connect better with any leadership goals that you set for yourself. In fact, reflecting on your intentions will help create more meaning to the goals that you want to achieve!

Below are some questions to reflect on to help you identify your intentions and actions for the coming year.

(Identifying your values and strengths might be a great place to start as well. For example, if you value true connections with others, your intention could be to lead with more authenticity. Check out this post on “How to Cultivate Passion for Your Work!”)

Questions to Ask to Discover Your Leadership Intentions:

  • What characteristics do you value as a leader?
  • Which of those characteristics feel authentic to you as a person and a leader?
  • Why are these characteristics important to you?
  • What actions would help you live out these intentions?
  • What would you need to address in order to carry out those actions?

Leveraging Goal- and Intention-Setting

Both goal- and intention-setting are important for our professional and personal development. If you have trouble thinking through your leadership goals for the coming year, reflecting on your leadership intentions is a great place to start.

Once you identify the type of leader you want to be, you can subsequently set goals and an action plan to help you lead with your intentions. We’re all energetic leaders whether we realize it or not — choose your intentions wisely.

What leadership intentions are you setting for the coming year and how do they reflect who you are as a leader?

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How to Set the Right Leadership Intentions