Action Trumps Intent – How to Create the Habits of Effective Leadership

February 22, 2024 Randy Conley

Over 1,400 people from more than 80 countries registered to join Ken Blanchard and me yesterday for our webinar entitled “Simple Truths of Leadership: Moving from Intention to Action.”

Our session focused on how leaders can use our recently published book, Simple Truths of Leadership Playbook: A 52-Week Game Plan for Becoming a Trusted Servant Leader, to build the habits that will help them become more effective leaders.

Our intent as leaders is important, but what really counts is taking action. Ken emphasized this point by sharing that his father, Ted Blanchard, had a favorite saying: “Talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey.” It’s easy to talk a good game as a leader, but it takes action to prove it.

Habits can help us move from intention to action. Habit is defined as an acquired behavior pattern (emphasis mine) regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. Behavior patterns are our leadership routines—the practices and actions we use daily without giving much conscious thought to what we’re doing.

Our earlier book, Simple Truths of Leadership, featured 52 fundamental habits and principles that make one a trusted servant leader. Its companion guide, Simple Truths of Leadership Playbook, took it one step further by prescribing a specific game plan to make each of the simple truths one of your leadership practices.

The key to developing a habit is to first develop a routine. How is a routine different than a habit? Whereas habits are behaviors that happen without conscious thought, routines are behaviors that are consciously and intentionally chosen. Routines come first; habits come second.

When forming new routines, it’s helpful to leverage nudges—behavioral tips and techniques—that help us establish a beachhead in acting in new ways. Ken and I shared several nudges that can help you build the habits of servant leadership:

  • Schedule it—If you want to ensure something gets done, put it on your calendar. It may seem awkward at first, but it will ensure you carve out time for the new habit you want to establish.
  • Take baby steps—It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the effort it will take to build a new leadership habit. Instead of focusing on the outcome, focus on the process. What’s the next best step you can take to become the leader you want to be?
  • Anticipate roadblocks—Whenever you set your focus on starting a new routine, you can be certain there will be circumstances that threaten to thwart your best laid plans. The key to avoid getting waylaid by these events is to plan for them. Make sure you have a Plan B.
  • Self-Compassion—Many leaders are their own worst critics. Unfortunately, self-criticism doesn’t help our efforts to build new habits. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is an effective motivator to encourage us to keep moving forward despite not always succeeding.

Becoming a trusted servant leader is a journey, not a destination. We never get to the point where we can say, “I made it!” Servant leadership is an ongoing process of becoming. Developing the routines and habits of the simple truths of leadership will help you become the leader your people deserve.

Editor’s Note: You can access a free recording of the webinar Randy Conley and Ken Blanchard conducted by using this link. Simple Truths of Leadership: Moving from Intention to Action

About the Author

Randy Conley

Randy Conley is the Vice President & Trust Practice Leader for Blanchard®. He is coauthor of Blanchard’s Building Trust training program and works with organizations around the globe, helping them build trust in the workplace. In 2022, Randy and Ken Blanchard coauthored Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust, and most recently, Simple Truths of Leadership Playbook: A 52-Week Game Plan for Becoming a Trusted Servant Leader.

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