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4 Benefits of Providing a Leaders Intent when Starting Projects

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Leader's intent is an approach to leading teams that has gained increased attention recently. It originated in the military but has been spread into business by executive leadership training programs such as the one provided by Thayer at West Point and books like Leader Business by Thomas Henry Magness and Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal. The idea of leader intent is simple: instead of leaders attempting to think through every potential outcome and codify every step in a process, they

  • set clear and concise goals and objectives

  • communicate why a goal is important

  • outline guiding principles

  • define key deliverables

  • empower their teams to make decisions and take action to achieve goals

This approach provides great flexibility and innovation, allowing everyone to leverage their strengths and creativity to solve business problems. The days of business being simple enough for one leader to have all the answers are gone. For organizations to thrive, they need to leverage each employee's collective mind, heart, and hands. This article will explore how using a leader's intent can help you improve the success of your business projections.

Female leader sitting at desk, team of employees working at a white board
A New Approach to Leading

1) Aligns individual and organizational goals

Organizations can deliver better and more consistent results when there is alignment between individual and organizational goals. The leader's intent process requires leaders to slow down and communicate purpose, desired end state, guiding principles, and key deliverables. This, combined with the brief back process, allows employees and leaders to confirm their understanding of goals and the plans for executing them.

2) Empowers and motivates the team

Once the leader shares their intent, it is up to employees to devise a plan to bring the desired end state to life. This allows employees to leverage their knowledge and skills to craft tactics. Involving employees in developing tactics gives them more ownership of the plan. This extension of trust can give employees a sense of pride and a greater desire to put in the effort necessary for the plan to succeed since they had a hand in developing it.

3) Foster innovation and creativity

Since Toyota popularized the kaizen approach to continuous improvement, it has been widely acknowledged that front-line employees often know how to improve business operations if given a chance to provide feedback on current operations. By increasing the number and diversity of perspectives involved in the planning process, organizations can fight groupthink and generate more and better ideas. The LeaderLeader'st process pushes decision-making further down into the organization, allowing for more testing of hypotheses. Companies can learn from different tests, share outcomes, and identify winning ideas quicker. As employees develop ideas, leaders can ask questions, provide suggestions, and support calculated risk-taking as the company pursues different approaches to actualizing the goal.

4) Improves communication and collaboration

By delegating planning activities, leaders encourage more collaboration between departments. Instead of one high-ranking executive being the key decision-maker for how a company should proceed, multiple employees are encouraged to work together to align on the company's course of action. This encourages employees to take a more holistic approach to the business and better understand the interdependency of each department. By designing projects where stakeholders from different areas of the company must work together to accomplish a shared goal, more opportunity is created for employees to think globally, work together and get out of silo thinking.


Leader's intent is a powerful approach that can help improve business performance. It encourages leaders to communicate business objectives, guiding principles, and critical requirements to employees. It also allows employees to use their knowledge, wisdom, and skill to develop tactics and complete tasks. Motivation, innovation, and creativity are unlocked by eliminating micro-managing and allowing employees to be more involved with the planning process. As business continues to evolve and grow more complex, managers and business leaders must change their approach to leading teams. Command and control approaches are dying, and approaches like leader's intent are the solution for maximizing the potential of the talent within your organization.


Thank you for reading this blog

Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with Your Path Coaching and Consulting. He is a former retail executive with over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. He is a Co-Active coach who focuses on helping professionals and small business owners overcome insecurities, knowledge gaps, and lack of direction. He does this by assisting clients to tap into their values, recognize their strengths, and develop actionable strategies for growth.

Picture of Dorian Cunion Executive Coach

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