Why Every Leader Needs a Statement of Intention

Have you ever considered what you’re telling the world through your voice? Not just your words but also your presence, non-verbal cues and the way you show up to meetings or when you walk into a room.

How all of these elements come together can either impact your leadership presence in a positive or negative way. Many people do not understand that their communication shapes how others see them; it can determine whether or not you get the job, the vote, the promotion, the financial support for a project or even the career you want.

Kate Peters, a public speaking and communications coach, summed it up this way: Your greatest impact will be found when your intention (the why), content (the what) and your delivery (the how) align. When properly aligned, these three elements build trust and increase leadership presence.

Peters has worked with hundreds of executives, community leaders and non-profit spokespersons on what it takes to show up as a leader. Her insightful session at GovLoop’s 2019 NextGen Government Training Summit focused on how to develop leadership presence or your influence as a leader, and how to express your authentic self. She also led attendees in an exercise to create their statement of intention, which I’ll touch on more in a bit.

Peters’ workshop was packed with a number of practical tips and advice for developing leadership presence, particularly at work. Here are a few tidbits I took away: When you attend meetings, put both feet on the floor and lean forward (lean into those meetings, not back in your chairs. Be present.

If you’re someone who is used to talking a lot at meetings or in conversations, get comfortable with silence. Pace yourself. If you’re in a meeting and the same person keeps making the same point, they likely don’t feel heard. One way to respond is by repeating what that person said before providing your response. It looks like this: “Hold on, let me make sure I understand what you’re saying,” and repeat what that person said.

One exercise I found particularly helpful during the NextGen workshop was developing a statement of intention. Remember earlier that I noted your intention plays a key role in your level of impact and leadership presence. This statement isn’t just a feel-good paragraph you jot down and tuck away in a notebook. It’s a statement that drives your purpose.

Here is a sample template of how to build out your statement of intention:

My intention is to be a (insert strengths in the two blank spaces) ____, ____ and ___ leader who is focused on (what you do) ___________.

I (insert verbs) ___, ____ and ____ others in order to bring into reality my vision of _____.

Peters shared her statement of intention and noted that it is a living, breathing statement that evolves. Her statement is the first paragraph you’ll see on her website’s about page.

“My intention is to guide and inspire leaders to be real and relevant heroes in their own stories and the stories of their organizations or causes, heroes who transform hearts and minds, and create solutions for a vibrant and peaceful world, every day.”

To help attendees craft their statements of intention, Peters asked some probing questions to get them thinking.

  • What strengths do you bring to your work? Maybe it’s knowledge about the market, candor, passion for the people you lead and serve, storytelling or visionary qualities. List at least three.
  • What is your favorite part of your job? Is it directly supporting customers, leading projects or coaching employees, for example?
  • How do you want to interact with people? What are the verbs? Perhaps you want to motivate, encourage, engage or guide others.
  • What is your vision? Is it to help people realize their full potential and become leaders, or to ensure customers have an experience that exceeds their expectations?

“If you are passionate, show up as passionate,” Peters said. “How can you make sure your passion shines through? How will you do this when you interact with others?”

Creating a statement of intention gives you a framework for growing your influence. Peters acknowledged that you may not be able to answer all the questions immediately, but the focus is to consider these questions to help guide you down your leadership path.

“Use the statement of intention every day,” Peters said. “Use your statement to shape how you show up in meetings. Use it to create content. Use it to guide your actions. How are you going to talk to people?”

As you go through the exercise outlined in this post, here’s something to think about: If you showed up as the person described in your statement of intention, how might it change the way you communicate with people?

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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Avatar photo Blake Martin

I love this framework- it’s like a grown up, professional Mad Lib. I like how Peters makes the connection between mindfulness and purposefulness and our everyday actions. The things we do and say have meaning, so why aren’t we putting more thought into our intentions? Great blog, Nicole; thank you for recapping this great NextGen breakout session!