May 18, 2018

Why Intent is so Important for Leadership

There is a little principle that I sometimes call the “golden watch principle”: When I want something from someone else (like a golden watch), their ability to withhold what I want gives them power over me. It not only gives them power over me but it makes them dangerous to me because they can manipulate me.   At the same time my intent to get something from them makes me dangerous to them, which means I am dangerous to them. The  outcome of this is conflict.

This very simple principle has startling consequences for how we think about leadership. Most leaders, if asked, have the view that their job is about achieving a result through people. Unfortunately, the product of the leader thinking that he is here to achieve a result through people is that he/she builds conflict into the very structure of his/her relationship with reportees because of the golden watch principle.

Of course, the conflict between management and employees needs to be managed. Doing this requires the imposition of inordinate levels of control because leadership cannot trust employees when  they have an entrenched conflict with them.

But, when a leader realises that his people are his product, that the point of the work is cultivating excellent people, he is constructing the relationship on the basis of his contribution. He is here to give to them. When this is the truth of leadership relationship, there is no longer conflict built into the relationship. The employees are safe from the leader and the leader is safe from the employees, there is harmony.

More importantly however, the greatest beneficiary of this will be you, the leader because your day to day work life is no longer something you have to suffer through because you are not just there for the results at the end of the month, you are there out of a commitment to the process of making the contribution required of you as a leader. This is a shift of attention from outcome into process. When you make what are doing the purpose of what you are doing then you will no longer experience it as the price you have to pay to get a reward. It is its own reward. It is the purpose.