• Leading through Empowerment

    A leading global expert in “Leading through Empowerment” is CultureDrivers’ strategic partner Stephen Bungay, author of the renowned book “The Art of Action”.
    We have worked with Stephen Bungay over several years, helping multiple global and local organizations become more successful by “building highly collaborative teams driven by Empowerment”.
    The power of this approach is that it helps everyone translate the overall strategic intent of the organization into specific and meaningful actions: “What will we do differently?”.
    ”Leading through intent” is about how to best execute strategy in a fast moving, complex, volatile environment, and the driving principle is quite simple:
    1.  Make sure that everyone is strongly aligned behind an “Intent”: a task (what we need to achieve) and a purpose (why is this important).
    2. Give the people involved as much autonomy as possible to figure out how they're going to achieve the intent.

    Watch Stephen Bungay explain the driving principles for “Leading through intent” (or read the extract below)

    When Leading through intent, leaders do not tell people how to do things. People tell the leaders. Achieving this involves three basic building blocks: Intent, Playfield and Support.


    Formulating an intent is about making choices. Leaders must decide that we need to do this, and by implication, not that. So, leaders are making resource allocation decisions.
    Clarity is not created by going into detail, but by making choices.
    We formulate the intent in two parts: A task (what we need to achieve) and a purpose (why is this important).
    To formulate the intent, leaders need to think two levels up: What does my boss want and what does my boss's boss want? But leaders should only task one level down. In other words, leaders break intent into its component parts and assign those parts as areas of responsibility to the people reporting to them.


    Second, we must offer people a playfield in which they have freedom to act.
    We create alignment around the intent by developing a common shared understanding rather than tight control, and give people an area of freedom within which they can take decisions about what action to take. That is their playfield.
    Everyone needs to be encouraged to go and use all the space on their playfield, but first they need to understand where the boundaries are.
    Leaders not only allocate resources but define constraints as well, for example time and money. A budget is a resource, but it’s a constraint as well. All critical constraints need to be shared.
    Once clarity about constraints is achieved, the players on the playfield can be left to make independent decisions and focus on winning the game.


    But the leader’s job isn't over yet. To empower people, setting direction and defining resources isn’t enough. People oftentimes need support while making independent decisions.
    Particularly in environments that historically has been highly controlled, people will need encouragement to use the space that’s handed to them. They will come to the leader for help. When they do so, leaders should avoid taking decisions that their people should take. Instead, they should offer the help needed to make good, independent decisions by coaching them and helping them to think through different options.

    Applications (examples)

    We are continuously developing our toolbox to support “Leading through Empowerment” as we grow our experience of working with our clients.
    Below are some examples:
    • Leadership Summits: a keynote delivered by Stephen Bungay combined with “Leadership Labs” where leaders get to explore the concept based own experiences and situation
    • Assessment: Using our unique tool that assesses the current strength of “Intent”, “Playfield” and “Support” in a team or across teams
    • Workshops:
      • Workshops where top management translate the existing strategy into “Intent”, “Challenges/unknowns” and “What success looks like”. This work forms the basis for effective communication and for inspiring the development of intent at lower hierarchical levels or across organizational areas
      • Workshops that help a team of teams define a shared “Master intent” as well as a series of “Domain intents” – and to re-prioritize key tasks accordingly
      • Workshops that help individual teams define a shared “Shared intent” and  re-prioritize key tasks
    • Digital tools that support scalability and transparency in working with “Leading through intent” across large organizations

    More information: Contact CEO/Founder Flemming Fog