Intent-Based Leadership

“If you share the world between leaders and followers, don’t be surprised if some are more empowered and engaged than the others”

Intent-Based Leadership, issued from the experience and works of David Marquet, is a practical approach of leadership development for each member of a team, favoring subsidiarity, empowerment and autonomy, without conceding anything to the imperious needs of operational control and efficiency.

This approach reconsiders the “leaders-followers” hierarchical model by providing practical methods and tools mainly based on language and behavior in order to broaden decision-taking, promote engagement and develop actual leaders at all levels across the organization – while maintaining the control dimension (on decisions and actions) with no compromise on operational excellence.

This is particularly adapted to our world of complexity and constant transformation, where efficiency doesn’t come anymore from blind and standardized execution as during industrial times of mainly physical labor – which generated labor scientific organization with the likes of Taylor or Fayol (assuming human being as a risk of quality distortion). Conversely, efficiency in today’s world arises from the mobilization of all available brains, in a responsible, autonomous and thus engaged way, aimed at the highest collective efficiency (assuming the human being is a vector of creativity, adaptation and richness), eventually allowing any team or organization to become the best possible version of itself.

Such approach’s principles can be summarized as follows: In order to reach excellence, and not just avoid errors, it is required that everybody feels free and legitimate to develop his own thinking. To enable this, the approach consists in acting on the professional environment by fostering self-esteem and workers’ engagement through a virtuous loop. Everyone is then recognized as a leader at his/her level, with the associated responsibilities, but also the recognition of the limits of the control he/she can apply.


  1. At individual level, everybody is called to express oneself in terms of intents (and not orders)
  2. At collective level, authority is pushed towards the ones who detain information (and not information pulled towards authority)

Control thus spread across the organization comes with increased individual responsibility, which implies a deep and shared understanding of the organization’s values and missions. It also requires that be enforced both individual technical competence and organizational clarity.



Intent-Based Leadership (IBL) 6 Principles

  1. Our objective is to achieve greatness, not avoid errors.
  2. In order to achieve greatness, we need people to think.
  3. For people to think, leaders must give control, not take control.
    – At an individual level, leaders move people up the Ladder of Leadership by giving intent, not instruction.
    – At the organization level, leaders push authority to information not information to authority.
  4. To ensure successful distribution of control, the two supporting pillars of technical competence and organizational clarity must be in place.
  5. Our focus is to change the environment, not the people.
  6. One way we do this is to act our way to new thinking, not think our way to new action.


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