Intentional Leadership


David Ivers is from Sydney, Australia. He is a qualified Primary and Secondary School Teacher. In total, he has served on school leadership teams for 16 years in senior leadership roles.

“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important

is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.”

Covey. S. R., Merrill. R. A., Merrill. R. R. (1994). First Things First. 

New York: Simon and Shuster. p.32. 


In the United States of America, September 17, 1787 is etched in the memory of its citizens as the day that 38 delegates signed a new ‘Constitution’ that would bring into existence the United States of America with a central, federal government. Through the echoes of history, such an event stands as a great achievement and the words of Stephen. R. Covey ring true. If the founding fathers were not focused, consciously committed to the task of creating a new ‘Constitution’, they would have, according to Covey, been committed to something else less important and thus history may well have taken a different course.

Like Stephen. R. Covey, the founding fathers of the United States of America, intended to create a new ‘Constitution. In doing so, their leadership was ‘Intentional Leadership’ and that made all the difference. In the 232 years that have elapsed, ‘Intentional Leadership’ is emerging in the world of business and government as something to be given serious consideration.

Intent is very important. It gives a sense of purpose and direction to the strategy and objectives of the organization. The CEO of the ‘Institute of Managers and Leaders (Australia and New Zealand)’, of which I am a Fellow, is David Pich. He used the term in 2017. 

“It was all the way back in late 2017 when I was asked this question at a conference in Brisbane, that I first used the term “intentional leader”. I used the word intentional to illustrate that managers really need to commit to being better and doing better. I wanted to emphasize that, in the vast majority of cases, good management practice doesn’t happen by accident…the leader who leads well from day one is a very rare occurrence. For the rest of us – mere mortals – competence and good performance are a result of hours, days, weeks, months and years of practice. Improvement only occurs because we commit to being better. And that commitment is about intent.”

Pich, David (2018) The Six Layers of Intentional Leadership.

All successful leaders have a person that is coaching them and there is a difference between coaching and mentoring.


The issue, of course, is that ‘Intentional Leadership’ is very much connected with authenticity as a leader. The authentic leader is a leader that has ‘buy-in’ from the people they lead. They have high degrees of integrity because they are not just capable of ‘walking the talk’, they actually do ‘walk the talk’ on a daily basis. This is the fundamental difference between a person holding a leadership position and a person exercising authentic leadership. They do it with intent and that intent is shared with the team that they lead. After all, whatever you are being intentional about, you will also be ‘attentional’ about as well.

According to Stephen. M. R. Covey, there are four ‘core’ areas of leadership, two that are derived from the character of the leader and two that are derived from the performance of the leader. The four core areas of leadership are: 

Core 1 – Integrity:

“While integrity includes honesty, it’s much more. It’s integratedness. It’s walking your talk. It’s being congruent, inside and out. It’s having the courage to act in accordance with your values and beliefs. Interestingly, most massive violations of trust are violations of integrity.” 

Core 2 – Intent:

“This has to do with our motives, our agendas, and your resulting behavior. Trust grows when our motives are straightforward and based on mutual benefit – in other words, when we genuinely care not only for ourselves, but also for the people we interact with and serve…Both integrity and intent are matters of character.”

Core 3 – Capabilities:

“These are the abilities that we have that inspire confidence – our talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style…Capabilities also deal with our ability to establish, grow, extend and restore trust.”

 Core 4 – Results:

“This refers to our track record, our performance, our getting the right things done…When we achieve the results we promised, we establish a positive reputation of performing, of being a producer…and our reputation precedes us. Both capabilities and results are matters of competence.” 

(See Covey, Stephen. M. R. (2006) The Speed of Trust. New York: Simon and Schuster.  p.54-55). 

What becomes clear from this, is that leadership is not just about the narrative of meeting targets and getting results. Even if the popular narrative is correct, those results are derived from both the character of the leaders as well as the competence of the leader. This means that what a leader does, needs to be thought out, it needs to be purposeful and it needs to embrace the team that they lead. By its nature, that means that communication is essential to ‘Intentional Leadership’. It is very hard to establish either the character or the competence of the leader, without some form of effective communication occurring. What Stephen. M. R. Covey highlights, is that additional to this, is the need for the leader to be able to create and sustain high levels of trust within the team and within the organization.

David Pich suggests that there are some things that the leader can do to advance their ‘Intentional Leadership’. He calls this the six layers of ‘Intentional Leadership’, though in reality there are seven.

The six layers of ‘Intentional Leadership’

  1. Listen and ask questions. Leaders speak last
  2. Find a mentor
  3. Commit to self-awareness
  4. Think before you act. Find time to make decisions
  5. Commit to professional development
  6. Reflect

And finally, the all-important (and yet so often forgotten) seventh layer; good leaders learn to say “thank-you”.

Pich, David (2018) The Six Layers of Intentional Leadership

How does this help a person applying for a leadership position in a Government agency? It means that in selecting and interviewing candidates for the position, the candidate needs to be aware that it isn’t just about whether you can get the organization to the destination but rather the journey in which you would take the organization on, in order to get there. Leaders that ask questions are leaders that know how to elicit information and are typically leaders that will interrogate the research before settling on it, as the basis for action. All successful leaders have a person that is coaching them and there is a difference between coaching and mentoring. Successful leaders are self-aware of the impact they are having. They scan the social and the business environment and formulate a carefully developed plan in response. In fact, if it is possible to anticipate what is going to happen, the leader will be proactive rather than reactive. This means thinking before acting. All leaders need to keep themselves renewed professionally and personally and need to be reflective leaders. Inner-work is at the heart of good leadership. So David Pich is correct in what he asserts are the ‘Six Layers of Intentional Leadership’. The seventh layer, however, is the one that will yield a consistent performance from the team. The use of two simple words: ‘Thank you!’.

In the context of a job interview, the panel is most likely looking for this type of skill-set in the successful candidate. Ultimately, the ability to demonstrate your capacity with ‘Intentional Leadership’ is demonstrating the ability to be strategic and the ability to harness the team and more broadly the culture of the organization, to advance it further towards mission success.

In doing so, it is worth considering this thought by Stephen R. Covey. A thought which no doubt had also crossed the mind of the founding fathers, as they signed the Constitution of the United States of America, on September 17, 1787. 

Stephen R Covey 

 “Your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you.” 


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